Anthony Johnson almost escaped his unanimous decision victory over Andrei Arlovski unscathed at WSOF 3 back on March 23. Unfortunately, he would break his right hand in the very last seconds of his heavyweight debut.
“In exactly the last 12 seconds of the fight I broke it,” Johnson told Bleacher Report recently.
“It was a clean break. I had surgery and they just set it back in place. It didn’t shatter, it just snapped, so they set it back in place. I’m good to go now.”
The former welterweight will need healthy hands at his disposal when he returns to 205 pounds to face Mike Kyle at WSOF 5 on Sept. 14. Kyle is known for his willingness to trade blows and for his knockout power. In addition to those attributes, he—like Johnson—also has experience fighting at heavyweight.
With over 20 knockouts between both fighters, this could be a highly entertaining slug-fest. How does Johnson feel about the matchup?
“I love it,” Johnson said. “Mike Kyle is a good striker. We’ll see what happens. He’s a good guy, a powerful guy. He’s tough. He’s with AKA, one of the top teams in the world so I know he will come ready. And there’s no doubt I’ll be ready to fight.”
Johnson has won five straight since being released by the UFC—where he failed to make weight several times. He will no longer have the luxury of not having to worry about cutting weight, like he had in his last camp.
After having surgery and being sidelined over two months, and an unwieldy cast limiting his activity, Johnson admits his weight went up due to inactivity and his appetite.
“I’m 240,” revealed Johnson. “I gained 10 pounds sitting on my ass basically because I didn’t train and stuff like I wanted to. Plus I was injured... You kind of have that attitude where you want to enjoy it while you can, and eat what you want. So I was doing that. Now I’m at the gym going all out.”
The gym that the 29-year-old fighter is referring to is the Jaco Hybrid Training Center, home of his team The Blackzilians. The heavily scrutinized team has endured its share of criticism, but lately they have been on a tear with huge wins from Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans and a Glory 9 tournament championship from Tyrone Spong.
“I love my team to death, win, lose or draw," Johnson said. “Any battle that my teammate goes through, I feel like I’m in there with them. When they lose, I lose. When they win, we all win.”
Johnson said he’s been helping Spong train for his upcoming bout vs. Angel Deanda at WSOF 4 in August: “That dude is just a natural athlete. Show him something a couple of times and all of a sudden he has it. He understands the movement, you know?”
Last month, Evans told Bleacher Report it wouldn’t be fair if Spong went 100 percent when they sparred. Johnson, on the other hand, said he and Spong “go all out.”
“I don’t know if you’ve seen Instagram and stuff, me and him throw blows pretty hard at each other.”
When it comes down to who he trains with the most, Johnson said he trains with “Thiago Silva more than anybody. That’s like my right-hand man when it comes down for me to train with. He looked great in his last fight. He’s tough that’s for damn sure. He’s tough to spar.
"He helps me get better and I help him get better. We both have a lot of respect for each other. We push each other. He gives me pointers. I give him pointers on things, so we bond pretty good.”
The fighter known as “Rumble” has stability in his gym, his teammates and WSOF—who have placed him in the main event on back-to-back fight cards. However, after he fights Kyle at WSOF 4, he will be a free man.
“I had a three-fight deal with them [WSOF],” he said.
Johnson stated he will be “waiting until after the fight” to negotiate a new deal. “I’m not trying to put the cart ahead of the horse,” he continued. “I’m just going with the flow, but like I said, I plan on being with World Series of Fighting for a while.”
So with Johnson's intentions and WSOF taking place in September, rumors of him heading back to the UFC will have to wait a couple of months before they can start.
One thing Johnson is proud of and he feels has been one of the most beneficial things for him is that he has "matured. I take a lot of credit in that, in the cage and out of the cage.”
How about what he needs to build upon?
“The things I need to work on are to keep improving myself,” Johnson said. “Keep maturing, and getting better in every way that I can as a fighter, and as a man.
“When you mature everything just kind of works together anyway. Things fall into place. I’m just happy with the way things have been going lately. I have my family. I have my friends, my coaches, and my manager. Without them in my life at this period of time, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in. They all came at the right time for me.”
Michael Stets is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.