Former UFC light heavyweight title contender Anthony Johnson parted ways with the promotion last month and signed with Bellator MMA. The decision came as a surprise to most fans (and pundits) because “Rumble” recently came out of retirement and entered the USADA testing pool with plans to make another run at the 205-pound title.
Then he “disappeared.”
According to his conversation with MMA Junkie, “Rumble” was looking to promote his medicinal marijuana company but felt handcuffed by the promotion’s “strict” policy on outside sponsorships. Bellator MMA, however, allows fighters to pursue off-brand interests and bring in supplemental income however they see fit.
“Business-wise, it’s just smart for me,” Johnson said. “I’m going into a different field outside of MMA. It gives me a little bit more leeway to do a little bit more. Honestly, with the UFC like that, you probably can’t really do a lot of things that you’d want to do because they’re such a strict company. When you have rules, you have to follow them, man. I’m not trying to break any rules, so why not just do our thing, show each other love and respect, and it is what it is?”
That’s not what my “imagination” came up with, but okay.
I guess now is a good time to mention that Johnson, who turns 37 in March, supposedly retired from UFC in early 2017 for the exact same reason, so I'm not sure why he expected his return to yield anything different in terms of rules and regulations. It also doesn’t explain why White was so tight-lipped about “Rumble’s” decision to set sail if this was simply a case of “smart” business by one of his fighters.
A date and opponent for Johnson’s Bellator debut have yet to be revealed.