Anthony Johnson has an interesting accolade to his name that few fighters can match – he’s competed in four different weight classes in the UFC.
The former title contender fought at welterweight from 2006-2011, though his frame made the cut difficult. The next year he moved up to middleweight, before moving on to heavyweight and light-heavyweight soon after.
Johnson missed weight multiple times throughout his career, making heavier weight classes the safest bet for his return. Though he retired recently, it appears his time away from the cage will be short lived. Johnson’s manager has already been discussing the fighter’s UFC return.
Manager Ali Abdel-Aziz confirmed the aim is for Johnson to return to a division where weight cuts didn’t plague him. Abdel-Aziz said: “He’ll come back as a heavyweight. We want him to come back as a heavyweight.”
Johnson’s last run in the UFC saw him win a light-heavyweight title eliminator against Alexander Gustafsson, before falling short against Daniel Cormier in a title bout. He then racked up three wins a row, all finishes, before once again being stopped by Cormier in their April 2017 rematch.
In order for him to return, Johnson would be required to subject himself to USADA drug-testing procedures for six months. While this rules out the rest of 2017 for the fighter’s comeback, it does mean he could return to the cage by early next year.
Johnson remained an active individual during his time away from the cage. He expressed a desire to venture into the marijuana business, and has also spoken about the effects of concussions on athletes. His vocal position on CTE makes it easy to see why the fighter doesn’t plan to continue in the sport until his later years.
However, unlike many other fighters who plan comebacks, Johnson has the advantage of being young. In addition, the 33-year-old hasn’t taken an overabundance of damage inside the cage. He holds an impressive record of 22-6, with five of his losses coming by submission via rear-naked choke.
His lone TKO loss came at the hands of Kevin Burns, though the fight is marred in controversy. Johnson was rendered unable to continue after being repeatedly poked in the eyes by Burns throughout the course of the bout. The referee declared Burns as the winner, though the use of illegal moves led many to believe Johnson should’ve won by disqualification. Despite an appeal by Johnson, the decision was upheld. Johnson KO’d Burns with a head kick in the rematch.
Johnson’s only fight at heavyweight was a victory over former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. While the division is full of power punchers who can end a fight in an instant, Johnson knows all about this as well. His devastating knockout power has become his trademark, making him a favorite of fight fans and also earning some favor with UFC president Dana White.
Johnson’s manager spoke optimistically about the comeback plans. Johnson would add some depth to the division, and could have his chance to finally capture UFC gold.
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