World Series of Fighting (WSOF) 7 is set to take place this Saturday (Dec. 7, 2013) from PNE Agrodome in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
The mixed martial arts (MMA) event was originally supposed to be headlined by Anthony Johnson vs. Mike Kyle. However, because of injuries to each fighter -- for a second time -- the fight has again been postponed.
This latest setback has thrown a wrench in the plans of former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) standout "Rumble" Johnson, who wants nothing more than to get this fight over with and move onto the "prime" of his MMA career.
He explained in a recent conversation with MMAmania.com:
"My coaches say that I haven't hit my prime yet, I don't know if that's true, I am just enjoying myself."
It could very well be true. When Johnson, 29, finally does enter a cage, it will be for the first time since March 2013. The good news is that "Rumble" has used the long layoff productively to train for a dangerous fighter such as Kyle.
While the injury he sustained lingered, he now says it is as good as new and won't hinder him at all when he attempts to extend his post-UFC win streak to six.
"My hand is 100 percent now, it has been that way for like a month and a half, camp has been awesome"
How did he get the injury?
"I popped the scar tissue in my hand, and that hurts like hell. I was training with Alistair Overeem and I hit him straight in the forehead bro -- he has a huge head, almost as big as "Bigfoot" -- and I didn't show any signs it was hurting. We were training really hard, almost going all out with each other, know what I mean? After I took off my glove and you could see where my hand swollen up, I knew it wasn't broke, but when I went to the doctor they told me it would take time to heal the way it needs to. But I wasn't about to take time off in preparation for a guy like Kyle. I couldn't take the chance with my career at that point."
Will the more than six-month layoff play any role in his return to the WSOF cage?
"I don't think I will have ring rust, I have been training this long in the game, I have been training with Vitor Belfort, Tyrone Spong and Rashad Evans, to me there isn't anything as ring rust, either you're ready or you're not."
The aforementioned training and preparation has all taken place in South Florida within one of the top camps in the sport, "The Blackzilians." When asked about the state of things at JACO Hybrid Training Center that is creating such positive results for all of the team members, Johnson attributed it to their close bonds.
"I think we finally have the right people around us now and everything is clicking. We are not cocky, we always come to fight, win, lose or draw. We see ourselves as a different team, not just some team. Everything is flowing. Hopefully we stay that way, everyone is putting in a lot of hard work right now and we want to keep rising to the top. Everyone has their own individual goals and I'm happy with the team. We are more of a family now than we have ever been. I just think everyone is in the zone right now."
What what class does he see himself finishing out his career at?
"I am not a Heavyweight, I am a Light Heavyweight. When I fought at Heavyweight it was just because they asked me to fight Andrei Arlovski. It was a challenge to me, and help the organization. I took a chance and rolled the dice."
I mentioned the knock against him in the past in regard to his struggles with making weight. He shrugged them off and pretty much said, "haters gonna hate."
That was the past:
"I had those issues when I was fighting at 170, I have had four fights at 205 and one at Heavyweight have made weight all these times. Most people want to remember the negative stuff. "
Remaining at Light Heavyweight creates a potential very marketable match up of Blackzilian team members -- Spong also competes for WSOF in the same weight class. Would it ever happen?
"It won't ever happen, Tyrone is my brother, we're boys, we will never fight each other, no matter how much we get paid I will never fight him, I can't hit him all out like that. I couldn't fight Rashad either. That would be stupid for me to fight someone I love that much. No matter what company it's for"
For a talented fighter who is willing to "roll the dice" with his career and compete above his weight class as a "favor," it's not a stretch to think that WSOF would reward his goodwill and not try to convince him to do something he is wholeheartedly against.
Regardless, where does Johnson rank himself in regard to the top 205-pound fighters in the world?
"I know some of those top guys I can beat. That isn't me being cocky, that is just confidence. I have never really thought about where I rank. I see everyone as equal unless they're champion."
And why isn't he WSOF Light Heavyweight champion yet? After being with the company since its inception, it only seems right that at some point he would be fighting for the promotion's strap. But, from what "Rumble" says, his contract may get in the way of that happening.
"They were talking about a belt for awhile. I have one more fight on my contract, this is my last one. We will see, you gotta think business wise, I didn't wanna sign before anything happened, I am just watching out for myself and not sign too early."
The injury to Kyle has derailed these future plans temporarily. However, when asked point-blank if he will be a unrestricted free agent following the last fight on his WSOF contract -- and be open to talking with other MMA promotions across the globe -- Johnson affirmed, "absolutely."
"I am waiting till after the next fight and going from there."