Anthony Johnson will walk into uncharted territory on Saturday night, when “Rumble” makes his heavyweight debut against former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski in the main event of WSOF 2.
Despite competing heavier than he ever has before, Johnson believes that he will retain all of his explosive attributes when he steps into the World Series of Fighting’s decagon at Revel in Atlantic City, N.J.
“The speed and the power are still there,” Johnson recently said during a media conference call. “I’m still an athlete. I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything. Of course, Andrei is a little bit bigger than me, but that’s it.”
A former welterweight, Johnson said he should weigh in at around 235 pounds prior to the main draw contest, which airs live on the NBC Sports Network following the Sherdog.com-streamed preliminary card.
During his time with the UFC, Johnson famously struggled to hit the welterweight limit, missing weight twice before making an ill-fated move to 185 pounds for a showdown with Vitor Belfort last year. “Rumble” again missed weight, coming in at 197 pounds before submitting to a first-round rear-naked choke at the hands of “The Phenom.” Johnson’s UFC release came not long after, and the fighter quickly settled on light heavyweight as his new division, debuting in the WSOF last November with a scintillating first-round knockout of former Bellator talent D.J. Linderman.
Whether he is fighting at 205 pounds or heavyweight, Johnson said he is a much happier man now that cutting large amounts of weight is a thing of the past.
“Even at 205, I wasn’t really worried about a weight cut. With each fight, I just get more and more comfortable with myself and the system of fighting that we have [at the Blackzilians camp]. Not having to cut weight is always a good thing,” said Johnson. “It makes me happier, and I train harder. I’m more focused. When you’re fighting a guy like Andrei Arlovski, you have no choice but to stay focused and to do everything right.”
To prepare for Arlovski, Johnson said he has run the gamut of Blackzilian training partners, sparring with opponents of all shapes and sizes to further sharpen his skills.
“There is no specific person I train with. I train with Alistair [Overeem], Matt Mitrione, Rashad [Evans], Michael Johnson, Danillo [Villefort] and ‘JZ’ [Cavalcante],” said Johnson. “I train with the guys who fight at 125, [with partners who are] smaller than me, faster than me, who can keep me on my toes. I want to get a look from everybody, no matter [whom] I’m fighting.”
Though the Blackzilians have recently experienced a string of defeats, Johnson said his teammates have not allowed the publicized setbacks to affect the squad’s focus, a fact Johnson believes will aid him on fight night.
“The vibe is still great. We don’t worry about what the media [have] to say. We just train and let the cards fall where they may,” said Johnson. “What the media and everybody thinks is the last thing on our minds. We just train and keep doing what we’re told to do, and whatever happens, happens.”