Anthony Johnson admits that he wasn’t ready the first time he fought for the light heavyweight title at UFC 187 this past May.
After all, he spent much of his camp preparing for the lanky and versatile Jon Jones only to end up facing stocky wrestler Daniel Cormier after Jones was stripped of his title and indefinitely suspended by the Las Vegas-based promotion.
“When I fought him the first time I wasn’t [ready],” Johnson said at the post-fight press conference. “I was getting ready for Jon Jones, not Daniel Cormier. it’s a big difference when you’re getting ready for [someone] 6-4 compared to, what is [Cormier] 5-10, 5-11 something like that? I wasn’t, but I still went out there and did my best.”
“Rumble” clearly hasn’t dwelled on that third-round submission loss to Cormier, however. That was never more clear than Saturday night, when he ended Ryan Bader’s five-fight winning streak in dominant fashion in the UFC on Fox 18 headliner.
Bader looked ill-equipped to deal with Johnson’s power, as he quickly dove for an ill-advised takedown in the bout’s opening moments. Johnson sprawled with ease and transitioned to his opponent’s back. Bader’s only recourse was to cling to a kimura, and when that failed, Johnson unleashed heavy ground-and-pound from back mount to force a stoppage just 1:26 into the opening stanza.
“There were two ways this was gonna play out,” Johnson said. “He was gonna play it smart and hope he would catch me out of position, or he was gonna bum rush me and try to take me down. He tried to bum rush me and it just didn’t work out. I was expecting one of two things. I liked his game plan.”
Bader did not attend Saturday’s post-fight presser, as he was transported to a nearby hospital for precautionary reasons. However, in the bout’s immediate aftermath, he said that trying to take his opponent down right off the bat wasn’t part of the initial game plan.
“It wasn’t the strategy to shoot on him right away. I was originally going to try to stick and move. I tried to fake a shot and come up with a left hook and he ended up taking me down,” Bader said in a quote provided by the UFC. “Figured I had a kimura on there looking to sweep him and stand back up. I got to a point where I was just trying to get to my knees and before I knew it, it was over. It felt like I didn’t get to show what I could do out there.”
Johnson, meanwhile, felt he showed plenty and was able to quiet some doubters who questioned his heart following the loss to Cormier.
“When I fought Daniel, the first round I dropped him and I tried to finish him and I gassed out. When you’re gassed and you’ve got someone like Cormier on top of you grinding on you, it can do a lot to you mentally and damn near break you,” he said. “I guess they saw the one fight and they thought they figured me out. That was fine. They brainwashed him [Bader] to make him think that I was actually mentally weak. That’s fine with me. I won. To me, who’s the weak one?”
For now, the light heavyweight title picture won’t clear up until the inevitable rematch between Cormier and Jones is booked. UFC Director of Public Relations Dave Sholler hinted that an announcement regarding that bout should be forthcoming.
“We expect to have an announcement within the next couple of days,” Sholler said. “Things are shaking out, and I think you guys will be pleased with the outcome. As for Anthony Johnson, [UFC matchmaker Joe Silva] was already talking about plans for him. We’re gonna get back to Vegas Tuesday and huddle on this.”
If the need arises, Johnson has no problem waiting for the winner of Jones-Cormier, even if that means he would be on the shelf until the latter portion of 2016. While nothing is official, the light heavyweight title bout is rumored for April and if it goes five rounds like their first meeting, the winner could need time to recover.
“That’s the biggest fight of my life. If they wanted to make me wait that long, I’d definitely do it. It gives me plenty of time to get ready for whoever,” Johnson said.
“I ain’t gonna say no matter what, because if somebody gets hurt and they need a replacement I’ll definitely jump in if I’m healthy and able to fight. That’s for light heavy and heavy.”
Even if Cormier is able to avenge his previous loss to Jones, “Rumble” believes he and “Bones” are destined to square off at some point no matter what.
“Jon and I will fight one day. We have mutual respect for each other,” Johnson said. “We’ve never talked trash about each other. Every time we see each other we show each other love. Especially with the media and everybody hyping the [previously scheduled] fight up between him and I, I was supposed to be the guy to knock him out and beat him.
“I think we definitely want to challenge each other and see what we’re made of. We’re just two alpha males like that that are just competitive.”