Johnny Walker will be looking to take full advantage of his makeshift main event bid later tonight (Sat., Feb. 19, 2022) at UFC Vegas 48 live on ESPN+ from inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, as he meets Jamahal Hill in a pivotal light heavyweight showdown.
This weekend’s card was originally expected to be headlined by a lightweight matchup between Rafael dos Anjos and Rafael Fiziev, but visa issues ultimately pushed that matchup back to UFC 272. Walker and Hill were already scheduled for co-main event action so it was an easy switch. However, Walker will now have five rounds to try to stop Hill instead of just three.
“I think [it’s] amazing. I’m so happy, so glad,” said Walker during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour. “I don’t care [whether it’s three or five rounds]. I have no idea, I didn’t ask. I just want to fight. I don’t care if it’s three or five – I can fight 20 rounds, so it doesn’t matter to me [whether it’s] three or five. I don’t need that much. This guy wants to come with everything, then I’ll go that way as well, so I’m gonna finish the fight early. I always train for five rounds as well.”
Walker, 29, wasn’t sure when he’d be back in a main event spot after losing his recent matchup to Thiago Santos back at UFC Vegas 38 in Oct. 2021. That was Walker’s first headlining act under the UFC banner, but he came up just a little short against one of the most dangerous contenders in the 205-pound division. Given the loss, Walker is eager to step back inside of the Octagon for a five-round fight.
“I think he’s a really good fighter – he’s high level,” Walker said of Santos. “He had more experience than me with five rounds, main events. He knows how to win by points, and we saw that the fight is gonna go by points, so he had more experience to get the fight on points. And I was too long without fighting. I was one year without fighting, so not much time.
“And he’s Brazilian as well. I feel weird to beat him up, so we just fight. It was really weird fight. And he was very defensive as well. ... He’s from my city as well. I [felt] weird. I don’t know what happened. ... We were very cautious. The game didn’t fit. We threw some punches, but he was waiting for me to make mistakes, and I was waiting for him to make mistakes, and the little mistakes that happened, he probably got the fight on. It just happened.”
Luckily, Walker will have his chance at redemption later tonight at UFC Vegas 48 when he takes on “Sweet Dreams.” Hill is coming off a masterful knockout performance against Jimmy Crute this past December, but he’s still a little green in the fight game with just 11 total pro fights. Walker will try to expose that in their main event matchup and find the defining finish he’s been looking for.
“This is my career, it’s my life,” Walker said. “Nobody pays my bills. I have to produce my own money to pay my bills, so it’s my responsibility to go and put the show on, get the bonus, and focus on that. I’m not focused on nobody else, what they say or what they think. I know if I do a good job, everybody is gonna be glad to watch so that’s my plan.
“I’m gonna do 100 percent to finish the fight. I don’t want to leave my fights anymore [in the judges’ hands], because I trained so much, I’ve come from hard history, and I’m gonna put everything on the edge of my glove this Saturday, and go out there and do my best. ... I’m gonna be very professional. I’m gonna use all of my level, all of my experience. I’m gonna be explosive, I’m gonna be unpredictable, I’m gonna use all of my weapons, but I’m gonna take my time as well. I’m gonna just be another level. You have to go to another level, and I’m gonna do that.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 48 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.