Heavyweight Tony Johnson, not to be confused with light heavyweight Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, is an 8-2 fighter out of the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) camp.
Johnson was last seen in Bellator MMA back in 2011, going all the way to a unanimous decision with current UFC standout Derrick "The Black Beast" Lewis. He also holds a career win over former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia.
What may be even more impressive is that Johnson has only suffered two defeats as a pro, one coming against renowned wrestler and fighter Daniel Cormier, the same man who opened the door to AKA for him afterward.
On April 10, 2015 at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, California, he'll have his toughest test to date facing former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov.
In his recent interview with MMAmania.com, Johnson talks about making his big return for Bellator, and where he's been in his time away from the confines of the cage.
For Johnson, there's no better time to come back.
"I feel amazing. I feel ready. I feel excited about this opportunity. I can't wait, I wish it was tomorrow. Y'know fighting in America feels good, honestly. A lot of those guys at AKA are gonna come down. Hopefully Cain (Velasquez) can make it out there. This is gonna be one of those 'feel like home' fights."
The reason it feels like home is because Johnson has been away fighting for ONE Championship, where he had two bouts in 2013 including his aforementioned technical knockout win over Tim Sylvia. Johnson gives Sylvia much respect for their war.
"The win over Tim Sylvia, I don't know if people respect him enough, but Tim Sylvia's a tough dude. Everybody's like 'Ohh that's not the old Tim Sylvia, he's not in shape.' You know whatever, I still beat Tim Sylvia, he's a two-time UFC world champion."
Having been around the world and back again fighting the best heavyweights available, Johnson is ready to take it to the next level on April 10 with "Drago" Volkov, who hasn't been seen in Bellator since submitting Blagoi Ivanov last May.
"I plan on beating him impressively, knocking him out impressively, impressing everybody in the organization, impressing all the MMA fans out there, all my Tony Johnson fans out there. He's been kickboxing longer than I have, so that's the only problem. But I've been fighting with these top notch guys, so I'm comfortable standing on my feet. He's not going to be able to do anything with me on the ground."
Bold words perhaps, but Johnson trains with some of the elite guys at AKA, and has a pretty good suggestion for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) if they want to do another "team vs. team" season like American Top Team vs. The Blackzilians.
"How about AKA versus like, Greg Jackson (Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA)? That'd be fun, huh? Have a superfight like Jon (Jones) and Cain (Velasquez), that'd be great. Hey, I'd spend money to go out there and see that!"
A lot of fans would, but in the meantime, Velasquez still needs to unify the heavyweight title with the interim strap held by Fabricio Werdum.
Johnson says Velasquez is ready.
"He's training hard. He's ready. I don't see anybody beating Cain for a long time. He's just a different animal when it comes to being in that cage. He's just relentless, he's always coming forward. No one has fought anybody like Cain before. Unless you've really had that pressure or trained with that pressure that he puts on you, it's a whole different ballgame. Like literally -- two rounds is like five -- because he's coming at you all the time."
Johnson will look to put that same kind of pressure on Alexander Volkov on April 10th. MMAmania.com will have complete coverage of Bellator 136 on fight week, and the complete audio of our interview with Johnson is below.
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