Anthony Johnson will finally make his much anticipated move to middleweight when he takes on former number one division contender and hometown hero, Vitor Belfort, at UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Jan. 14, 2012.
"Rumble" has been known to have some issues with making weight at welterweight, failing to do so twice during his 170-pound career with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and experiencing difficulties with the cut even when he has been successful.
Tonight (Dec. 5, 2011), Johnson appeared on HDNet's "Inside MMA" to discuss the move to the 185-pound weight class, as well as his upcoming fight with "The Phenom." And even though he be able to hit the scales 15 pounds heavier than normal on fight night, Johnson will still have to shed about 30 pounds between now and then to make the cut.
"I'm not going anywhere. I'm here and I'm here to stay. For me personally, it didn't matter what weight class I fought at. I'd fight at 205 (pounds) if they asked me to. But, fighting at 185 -- people have been asking me for a long time when I was gonna move up to 185. I had an opportunity to fight Vitor Belfort, so I'm gonna step up to the challenge and see what I can do. I feel great already. I'm 215 to 220, right now. I feel amazing. My speed is still there. Of course I'm stronger. So, I know, fighting at 185, I'm gonna be just as fast. In my opinion, I'll be just as strong. I don't see anything that could go wrong."
Perhaps that extra strength will serve him well against Belfort, a fighter who is also seemingly trapped between two divisions, having competed at 205 pounds often throughout his mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
In fact, Johnson seems to think that added power will ensure that the fight is a violent affair. One that he, unsurprisingly, sees it going in his favor:
"I honestly think it won't go all three rounds. Somebody's gonna get hurt. I don't know who it'll be. I don't plan on getting hurt at all. Somebody's gonna get hurt. Somebody's gonna get carried out on a stretcher or something. It's gonna be a battle. That's what I'm looking for. That's what I'm preparing for. I hope he is too."
After winning his last fight by technical knockout (head kick) over Charlie Brenneman at UFC on Versus 6 on Oct. 1, 2011, in Washington, D.C., Johnson is feeling awful confident these days.
He's not cocky, he just is a big believer in himself and what he can do:
"I plan on doing whatever it takes to beat Vitor. I mean, I don't know if I'm gonna stand or if I'm gonna take it to the ground. I'm gonna win. That's all I know. After this victory -- and I keep saying 'victory' and stuff like that -- I'm not cocky, I'm just confident in my abilities and stuff like that. If I don't believe in myself, no one else will. "
Johnson also spoke about the prospect of fighting in Brazil. He's excited about the opportunity, but once it's all said and done, expect to see him on the first plane back to the United States.
With a quickness:
"I think it's gonna be pretty amazing. I'm pretty sure I'm the underdog, going into the fight, which I don't mind. Just fighting in Brazil, overall, that's gonna be a dream come true. I have a lot of teammates that are Brazilian and they tell me some crazy stories. So, I'm looking forward to it. But, after this, I don't plan on staying in Brazil for too long. I plan on coming back where I'm safe."
Do you Maniacs see Johnson playing the role of spoiler by upsetting Belfort on his home turf? Is the move to middleweight the right career decision for "Rumble?"
Be sure to check out our complete Vitor Belfort vs. Anthony Johnson UFC 142 archive right here.