Every fight seems to be a potential breakout for UFC light heavyweight contender Johnny Walker so this weekend’s clash with Thiago Santos at UFC Vegas 38 shouldn’t be any different.
Walker, who will meet Santos in the main event live on ESPN+ from inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of the more physically-gifted fighters on the UFC roster today. The Brazilian fighter has been projected to be a future title challenger since his meteoric rise from 2018-2019, but Walker hasn’t exactly cashed in when it mattered most.
Walker, 29, hasn’t fought since his knockout win over Ryan Spann back in Sept. 2020 (see it HERE). That was over one year ago and easily the biggest layoff of his UFC career. Still, the knockout finisher is stepping back into the limelight 12 months later and facing off with one of the most dangerous strikers in the light heavyweight division.
“It’s been so long, right?” Walker asked reporters earlier this week. “A little bit more than one year. My last fight was in Vegas against Ryan Spann. It’s a long journey. I learned so much through this.”
Luckily, Walker hasn’t squandered his time away from the Octagon. Instead, the rising contender used his layoff as a means of putting his career in perspective and changing the things outside of the cage that needed changing.
“It was difficult, but it was really good for my personal life because I realized so much stuff that I have to do to become what I want to be,” Walker said. “I think I’m more mature now, right? I’ve got more experience, and I’ve learned how my body works, what I have to do to become a champion, and I’ve learned from all of the mistakes, right? Now I’m committed to myself. I’m responsible for my life, for my family.
“I have so much to fight for, and I just realized, like what I’m doing with my life, and then I committed to myself, like I’m going to commit 100 percent of my time, so I spend all of my time – I just train, eat, sleep, repeat every day. Focus on my diet. Injury prevention. Improve all of my skills, technique, and you’re going to see Saturday night the big results of 100 percent focus. You know, I’m living like a champion now.”
Walker, who despite losing two out of his last three trips to the Octagon, still holds a reasonable 5-2 UFC record. Given the lack of readily available title challengers at 205 pounds a win this Saturday over Santos could land Walker one win away from his first UFC title shot.
“I’m here to take over,” Walker said. “I’m going to smash this division. I’m going to own this. This is my division now. I’m hungry. I’m ready
“If before, like the young guy with no experience, I did so much messing up, imagine now, focused the way that I am now with more experience. I’m a man now. I am not a boy, and I’m going to take over.”
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