Tim Johnson has come a long way in a short amount of time. After alternating wins and losses in seven fights with the UFC, he was released by the organization in 2018. Shortly after, he was picked up by Bellator. In his Bellator debut, he lost in 68 seconds to Cheick Kongo. A few months later, Johnson fought former Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov in the co-main event of Bellator 225, once again losing by stoppage in under two minutes.
Last year, however, he came back with a vengeance, becoming the first man to defeat blue-chip prospect Tyrell Fortune, doing so with his own first-round knockout. He then defeated longtime UFC and Bellator contender Matt Mitrione by first-round stoppage. Then in October at Bellator Euro Series 10, Johnson completed his transformation by avenging his loss to Kongo, who had challenged Ryan Bader for the heavyweight belt in his last outing.
Tim Johnson Attributes Success to Xtreme Couture
When asked what the cause of his career resurgence was, Johnson credited his move to Xtreme Couture as one of the driving forces.
“After my first Kongo fight, I was still up in Fargo (North Dakota), and didn’t have any bodies to really train with up there,” Johnson told MMASucka. “So after that fight we pulled up shop, moved out to Vegas here. I had been coming here quite often anyways, but finally made the move permanent. It took a little bit of time, but I think eventually the bodies I was working with got rid of some bad habits, and they turned into good habits.”
Xtreme Couture has also become the home of UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, who serves as one of Johnson’s training partners. He says that being alongside “The Predator” has helped him immensely.
“I’ve been training with Francis for the last couple of years off and on before I moved out here. Watching him grow and develop as a fighter has been pretty fun to watch and be a part of that,” Johnson said, “On top of that, it’s a mental thing. I’m not going to get hit as hard in a fight as I am in the practice room, so if I can handle that, I can handle anything in a fight.
Tim Johnson Plans to Embrace the Grind Against Valentin Moldavsky
Tim Johnson is now set to challenge Valentin Moldavsky for the Bellator interim heavyweight title in Friday’s Bellator 261 main event. The two have been scheduled to face off twice before, but are finally going to meet this weekend.
“Actually it seems like fate,” Johnson said, “We were supposed to fight two prior times. One time, I had to pull out due to injury, and the other time, he had to pull out due to injury. So it’s been a date waiting to happen for a few years now.
Regarding the fight, he recognizes that Moldavsky will be a tough opponent with a similar set of skills.
“Moldavsky’s a tough out. He’s a young kid, full of piss and vinegar, a lot to prove, and he’s a grindy, grindy guy who’s fine with taking a fight as long as it goes. The biggest thing in this fight is who can dominate the fence and the clinch, which is what we both do. Who can do it better is probably going to be the end result (as the winner)”.
He went on to describe the fight as a war of attrition, even if it will not be as exciting for fight fans.
“Yeah, as much as I want to be out there throwing overhand rights and uppercuts and kicks and all that stuff, I’m not that fighter. I wish I was, I truly wish to all the fans that I was that guy. But you got to stick with what you’re good at, and that’s what he’s good at and that’s what I’m good at. I think a lot of dirty boxing, if somebody can get a good shot in there, somebody will go down, but other than that it’ll be a war of attrition for sure.”
Tim Johnson Talks Military, Fatherhood and Facial Hair
A military veteran, Tim Johnson just rejoined active duty in November after about four and a half years away. He credits his service with helping his mindset in the fight game.
“It helps a lot being previously deployed. It just puts things in perspective; this is just a fight, it’s not the worst thing that can happen. It’s not like you’re driving around looking for roadside bombs.”
His military service is also part of the reason for growing his famed mustache in his earlier days, which he no longer sports.
“I first did it as a way to be seen, it was kind of a running joke for a bit. Then I walked out with it, and I was planning on only doing it once, for my debut in the UFC. And then it kind of took off a little bit, and the mustache become kind of bigger than I was. So then I had to keep wearing it, and then, because at the time I was in the military, so that was the only facial hair I could grow, was the moustache.”
Johnson continued, “But then I was out of the military, so I grew that beard, and kind of went back and forth. But I think right now, it’s not about antics anymore, it’s about the fight.
Another aspect of his life that has changed since his last fight is the growth of his family, welcoming a daughter eight months ago.
“It’s definitely an amazing feeling, and it’s definitely trying too. It’s the first fight camp with her,” Johnson said, “A fight camp with a six, seven month old, you had to definitely be more schedule-conscious, to say the least, to help out with Mom and her and everything back and forth. It was kind of a learning curve in the beginning, but now I think we got it all pretty well figured out going forward.