Is it just me, or has the UFC light heavyweight division gotten a lot more interesting now that Jon Jones is (mostly) gone? Jan Blachowicz taking the vacant belt at UFC 253 seems to have opened up a whole new world of possibilities at 205 pounds, and you’ve got challengers like Thiago Santos, Aleksandar Rakic, Jiri Prochazka knocking on the door. Paulo Costa and Yoel Romero are rumored to be moving up, and who knows, maybe middleweight champ Israel Adesanya will try to confirm his ‘Best 205er’ claims in 2021 as well.
There’s also the return of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson to consider as well. Back in August, his manager announced that “Rumble” was back in the USADA testing pool, starting the six month period all returning UFC athletes must go through before returning to competition. His division of choice: light heavyweight. He explained the reason for his return and his goals in a recent podcast with Mike Swick.
“I got bored,” Johnson said. “And watching DC and Stipe going back at it again for a second time, it just honestly, I was like ‘Man, I’m still right there.’ You know what I mean? So I just want to go out there and test myself again. Because those two men lit a fire under me and made me want to compete again.”
“Rumble” wasn’t ready to make any grand statements or demands surrounding the light heavyweight title.
“One step at a time,” he said. “I’m coming back and just having fun and whatever happens, happens, and if I don’t, I don’t. I’m not going to put that kind of pressure on myself. But I know how hard I can push myself to get to that level. So I’m just gonna do what I gotta do and let the chips fall where they may.”
And like many, he had his opinions about the recent UFC 253 showdown between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa.
“I figured that was gonna happen,” he said regarding Adesanya’s win. “Costa is a little flat footed, a little bit. He’ll pressure you, he knows how to go forward. I don’t think he knows how to go backwards. But I’ve trained with Stylebender, he’s whupped my butt pretty good. Came in the gym, had just finished his kickboxing match a week or two before. And that’s when I had just started my camp and he came and put a beating on me. He’s really good, gotta give him credit, he’s the best.”
“But Costa, when you showboat like that you actually ... you’re not focused. How many people have played that game and have come out successful? That’s not something to play with, especially not in a championship. Don’t play like that.”
“Stylebender was serious, Costa came in thinking that he’s just a white belt, he’s nothing, he’s skinny,” Anthony continued. “Hey, being skinny has its advantages, dude. I don’t understand all of a sudden either why Costa is getting so upset after he saw what Stylebender did to him, you know? I was like ‘Dude, you were the one talking so much and then he gets you at the end and now you mad? Because he embarrassed you? Come on man, grow some balls. Man up to that.’ It is what it is. You can’t demand a rematch either after a performance like that either. That’s not smart. That’s not gonna sell for sure.”
With Johnson’s six month waiting period ending in mid-January, who knows? Maybe he can welcome Paulo Costa up to 205 and find out if the Brazilian is as flat footed as he says. What do you think about that match-up, Maniacs?