Anthony Johnson was one of many new acquisitions Scott Coker made to bolster Bellator MMA’s roster in 2020. And it came at a perfect time because the promotion recently announced its Light Heavyweight Grand Prix.
As a matter of fact, “Rumble” was booked to face off against another one of Bellator’s new signings and former UFC fighter, Yoel Romero, at the upcoming Bellator 257 on April 16, 2021, in the opening round. For Johnson, making the move to Bellator just seemed right and says he left UFC with no ill will.
“I’m just ready to go and fight,” Johnson said in an interview on The Spaniard Show (via MMA Fighting). “I look forward to the competition that’s out there. I think we can compete with the UFC with what we have. A lot of people think that just because the Bellator promotion isn’t what the UFC promotion is that the fighters aren’t the same caliber, and there’s always levels to everything. Every business, every promotion. But Bellator is no joke.”
Johnson says you have to look no further than Michael Chandler’s first round knockout of Dan Hooker at UFC 257 (relive it here) — which marked the UFC debut of the former Bellator Lightweight champion — as proof that Bellator’s fighters are more than legit.
“Look at my guy, my teammate Michael Chandler went over there and destroyed Dan Hooker — smoked him,” Johnson said. “But I knew that was coming. I’m like, y’all don’t realize how dangerous Michael Chandler is. And even though he came from a smaller promotion, he’s still an elite fighter.
“He wasn’t there being the champ and fighting the best of the best for no reason,” he continued. “He went to war with Eddie Alvarez and to me, Eddie Alvarez is for sure the greatest fighter ever in my opinion because he’s been to every organization and won the title. People don’t give that man credit.”
To hear Johnson tell it — as well as many others before him — gone are the days when being a “UFC fighter” is the end-all, be-all in MMA. Because with Bellator rising and other organizations taking steps to increase their rosters and popularity, making good money outside of the Octagon is possible if you’re a fighter.
“I also see that fans are now starting to understand that you don’t have to be just a UFC fighter to be successful and be able to feed your family and be something,” Johnson concluded. “So don’t be afraid to go outside of the box if there’s other things out there you want to be able to do in other promotions, go for it. Try it out. And I think Bellator for me was the right move.”
Johnson left UFC after losing to Daniel Cormier a second time in 2017 with an overall record of 13-6 in two runs with the promotion.