Anthony Johnson: It’s going to be fun fighting Vitor Belfort (Exclusive Interview)


If you’ve ever watched an Anthony Johnson fight, you have to tell yourself not to blink because you could miss out on a potentially epic knockout or TKO. On paper we know he is a wrestler, but fans know that the man known as ‘Rumble’ has a very technical and powerful striking game to compliment his wrestling abilities. His left high kick has become a trademark in his arsenal; he also has dynamite in his fists. If any of these weapons were to touch an opponent’s chin they would for sure have the lights turned out in their head. “When I dropped Charlie Brennerman with that left kick, his chin made contact with my foot. He would have been unconscious if I hit him clean with my shin the way I intended.” Johnson stated.

For a long time, many fans have felt that Rumble was too big to be playing around in the welterweight jungle. But now they get their wish and he is making the jump to the 185lbs division to face ‘The Phenom’ Vitor Belfort. “I still want to fight at 170,” said Johnson “but I’m excited about making the jump to 185 and we’ll see what happens after this fight is over.” UFC 142 will be going down on January 14th 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The odds will be stacked against Anthony Johnson with the weight of a country on Vitor’s back and of course we cannot forget the hostile environment that Johnson will be venturing into. But Anthony doesn’t seem fazed at all by this new challenge and he seems to be embracing this huge opportunity. “Brazil is the MMA capital of the world. I know the Brazilians can get a little wild, but I’m really looking forward to this! It’s going to be fun fighting at 185 and I’m blessed that the UFC gave me this chance.”

In a way, this opportunity to fight the legendary Vitor Belfort is coming full circle for Anthony Johnson. The two first met after Anthony’s very first professional Mixed Martial Arts bout back in 2006. “I knocked out my opponent in one minute and nine seconds something like that. Vitor happened to be in the crowd, Shogun Rua was too. After the fight, Vitor gave me props and shook my hand. I never thought I’d be fighting a man who I shook hands with many years ago. I’m a fan of Vitor Belfort and always will be. It’s going to be fun fighting him.”

Going into this fight he arguably has one of the best camps in MMA behind him. The Imperial Athletics team aka The Blackzilians have a very well-rounded team featuring names like Jorge Santiago, Rashad Evans, Michael Johnson, Gesias Calvalcante, Melvin Guillard and Antonio Silva. Kickboxing / Muay Thai legends Tyrone Spong and Cosmo Alexandre are also part of the team helping work on the stand up department. “Training with The Blackzilians has been amazing. They are a good group of guys. Joining this team is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.” Over the years Johnson has had many teachers, but his current camp is as elite as it can get in all aspects of the game. Early in his career he was training at the old Chute Boxe USA in LA where he learned from the likes of Wanderlei Silva and was once a part of Cung Le’s AKA USH Fight Team.

Growing up in a small town in Dublin, Georgia, Anthony Johnson was an adopted child who was raised in a loving home by his grandparents. He grew up in a tight knit family living on a small farm that raised animals and grew corn. Before he made his name knocking out opponents inside the cage, he was an accomplished high school running back and wrestler in his area. He was offered numerous scholarships to play college football, but decided to accept an offer to wrestle for Lassen College in Susanville, California. In 2004, he became a NJCAA National Champion in the 174lbs division.

He got into Mixed Martial Arts through a friend’s father who owned a gym back in his hometown and once he tried it he was instantly hooked. From that point on there was no turning back for him and he knew what he was destined to do with his life.  “Honestly, if I wasn’t a fighting right now I have no idea what I would be doing today” said Anthony.

From his humble beginnings to the biggest fight of his career, this is Anthony’s chance to truly put himself on the map, and perhaps even a title shot could be in the works if he wins this bout. The thousands in attendance at the HSBC Arena in Rio will be chanting Vitor Belfort’s name during this fight. But if anyone could possibly silence the crowd and shock the MMA world, it’s Anthony Johnson. His technical and powerful striking combined with his wrestling background make him a formidable opponent for Vitor Belfort. The Phenom will have his hands full in Rio and it will not be a walk in the park for both men. Could this fight go past the first round? Most would say no, but if it goes the distance or ends early just remember not to blink at all times. You could miss out on something very special if you do.

Anthony Johnson would like to thank his sponsors KNOXX Gear, Jaco, Tapout, and Authentic Sports Management.

Special thanks to Anthony for taking the time to conduct this interview and to Damon from KNOXX Gear and Jen from StarPR Las Vegas for making this possible.

  • Interesting fight here.

    Question is will Johnson stand and trade or use his wrestling; Most of Vitor’s loses were to wrestlers, so it would be more intelligent to try to outwrestle the ‘Phenom’.

    I think Belfort overall just has so much experience on Johnson that he should win by KO or even a possible submission if Belfort wanted to use his BJJ skills; unlikely as the majority of his fights he likes to use his quick hands.

    Johnson though could pull out the UD here; but then again a small chance as Belfort isn’t exactly a fish out of water on the ground like Dan Hardy, lol.

    Gonna go with Belfort via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) shortly after dropping Johnson. 😀

  • This fight is the biggest test of Rumbles careers, even bigger than that bleached brillo headed fool. The Phenom is still a top 5 if not 3 MW in the world. Johnson has grown leaps and bounds from where he was against Koscheck so he could pull this off, but it’s going to have to be a damn good performance.

    Good luck Rumble, this is going to be one hell of a fight!

  • im exited to see a healthy 185 johnson, i he can really shine and reach his full potential in this divison. he wont be dehydrated as hell coming into fights, a more natural weight cut means less risk of injurys etc and i think he can do well. vitor is a tough test for anyone, itl be a great fight.

  • Johnson should study video of Randy vs Vitor.

  • I’m just really looking forward to this!

  • Johnson is a beast with BIG knockout power but wrestling will be key for him because Vitor is too fast and too explosive with his hands. These are both very technical strikers with lots of power so it could go either way. I pick The Phenom.

  • I pick the Phenom too. He has fought top wrestlers and strikers in many weight classes. I do belive his experience and his explosiveness will be the key to get that win and prove he belongs to the very top middleweights.

  • Johnson may get KO for the first time in his carrer
    Belfort is going to the top

  • Fighting vitor doesn’t sound even a tiny bit fun too me. Gotta give it to these warriors.

  • This article was written really well. I really enjoyed reading it keep up the good work

  • Anthony doesn’t seem confident he’s I think he’s giving vitor to much respect and if he goes in with this mind set he’s getting K.O’ed for sure.. this is Anthony biggest fight so far and he should approach this fight as if its a championship fight not (oh I’m excited) have more confidants in himself and his knockout power and know that vitor suffered a huge KO.. KO vitor get knockout of the night money and hell be a fight or two away from a title shot against probably The best ever

  • long limbs, i see a karate kick TKO by Rumble….Hrm…reminds me of…..

  • Anthony Johnson is going to run back down to welterweight after this fight.