The kind of man you don’t want creeping up the UFC welterweight ladder if you’re a top contender. After all, he’s just 25 years old and appears to be improving with each passing fight.
He’s also a physical specimen with incredible strength and power. He may very well be the best striker in the division already. All five of his UFC victories have come by way of a vicious, spectacular knockout.
Most recently, he finished off Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 104 after weighing in a full five pounds over the limit the day before, which sparked a lot of controversy while leading many to question his professionalism. He was also docked 20 percent of his compensation as a penalty and missed out on a potential $60,000 bonus for "Knockout of the Night."
The good news coming out of the Yoshida fight was that he took virtually no damage after his easy win.
The UFC needed a high profile matchup on the main card at UFC 106 after Brock Lesnar pulled out against Shane Carwin because of illness and they gave Johnson a call.
The offer was to face top ten welterweight Josh Koscheck and Johnson jumped at the chance even though it would be less than a month since he last fought at UFC 104.
November 21 marks the date of the first true test in Johnson’s young career. It’s a chance for him to show he belongs in the upper echelon of the division that is currently ruled by champion Georges St. Pierre.
A win would move him one step closer towards a potential title shot.
"Rumble" took some time out of his busy fight week schedule to discuss his weight issue, the weight class he’ll fight in moving forward, Koscheck, and a potential future showdown with Georges St. Pierre.
Check it out:
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You just fought Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 104 about a month ago. Why did you decide to take another fight so soon?
Anthony Johnson: I knew it was time for me to step up my game and fight some guys that are straight up, hardcore fighters. Why not? If I want to get to the top I have to fight the best, and he’s one of the best so I’m taking that step.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): With regards to your weight, what have you been doing this time around to ensure that you won’t miss the 171 pound mark?
Anthony Johnson: I’m still doing the same thing I did for my last fight, just kind of without hindrance. I got time to make the weight and I feel healthy so there won’t be any excuses.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What is your weight at right now, roughly four days from the weigh-ins?
Anthony Johnson: 185 pounds.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Does that mean you are on target then? You’re good to go?
Anthony Johnson: Oh yeah. Fighters usually lose ten pounds the day before and then the last four or five the day of the weigh-ins. I feel great.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Has the UFC ever said anything to you about making you fight at middleweight in the future?
Anthony Johnson: No, never that.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Will you still continue to compete in the welterweight division moving forward?
Anthony Johnson: Exactly.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Back to Koscheck. Have you even had any time to watch tape on him?
Anthony Johnson: Yes, I’ve watched tape on him and I’ve been doing my homework. He’s a good fighter. He has holes in his game, but who doesn’t?
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you expect Koscheck to come out and be active looking for takedowns or do you expect him to stand and trade with you?
Anthony Johnson: I am expecting everything. I just have to be on my toes.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Was it difficult to find training partners to simulate a guy with the wrestling ability of Koscheck?
Anthony Johnson: My team is a standup team but it is essential to mix the wrestling with the kickboxing. Yeah, it was tough on my guys. They did the best they could. They actually did really good fighting his style. My training camp was great. Nobody is going to fight like the guy that you actually fight, you know what I mean? They gave me a really good look.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you feel like your kicks could be more important than usual in this fight in order to try to deter the takedowns, much like Thiago Alves did against Koscheck?
Anthony Johnson: Everything is going to count in this fight. Not just kicks, but punches and everything.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): We haven’t seen much of your ground game in your UFC career because you haven’t really needed it. How good are you off your back if it comes to that?
Anthony Johnson: I can do enough to survive. I’m not a black belt or anything like that. I don’t want to submit you. I know how to hold on to you and have the ref stand us up, let’s put it that way.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): When you envision how the fight will play out in your head what do you see?
Anthony Johnson: This fight is such a good fight with two great fighters. It’s really hard to envision what this fight is going to be like. All I know is that my hand going to be raised at the end of the night. I don’t know how but it will be.
I’m just really looking forward to it. Josh Koscheck can come up with many different tricks and I can come up many different tricks. If this is going to be a chess match let’s see who makes the first mistake.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Where would a win put you in terms of the welterweight title picture?
Anthony Johnson: It will prove to everybody that I’m serious. That’s all I know. I don’t know. I don’t care where it puts me but people will know I’m serious when I beat him.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): How do you think you would matchup with Georges St. Pierre?
Anthony Johnson: I think I matchup good with him but I still have a long ways to go to catch up to his level.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Would you like to pass along a message to your fans at this time or thank any sponsors?
Anthony Johnson: I want to thank my fans for sticking by me and believing in me. I’m very excited for my fans to watch this fight with two explosive fighters like me and Koscheck. I want to thank Knoxx, Tapout, BSN, my team, and my agent Ken Pavia at MMAAgents.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I appreciate you taking the time during your fight week and on short notice. Best of luck to you in a few days.
Anthony Johnson: Thank you.
Derek Bolender is a contributor to MMAmania.com, CBSSports.com, FoxSports.com, and BleacherReport.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DerekMMAwriter and Facebook.com/Derek.Bolender.