No. 14-ranked UFC light heavyweight Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is headed for arguably the biggest fight of his MMA career against Phil Davis in the co-main event of this Saturday night’s (April 26, 2014) UFC 172 from the Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland.
After two years away from the UFC after his well-documented struggles to make weight for UFC bouts at both welterweight and middleweight, “Rumble” has found a new home at 205 pounds following his UFC return thanks to six straight wins in promotions like Titan FC and World Series of Fighting (WSOF).
Seemingly a new man at light heavyweight, Johnson knows just how talented a competitor Davis is. However, “Rumble” also thinks that Davis may be looking past him a little bit, so he told FOX Sports that’s all he needs:
"I don't think Phil's dumb, I think he's just preparing himself for what could come up next. That's not a bad thing. I don't think he's overlooking me, but at same time I think he doesn't take me too seriously. I think he doubts me just a smidge and that's all I need.”
Johnson’s words are backed up by Davis’ stance at yesterday’s UFC 172 media conference call, an event during which “Mr. Wonderful” took upon himself to rip into UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones with a varied mix of trash talk.
While there’s nothing wrong with building up your own standing with some well-timed callouts (and let’s face it, Davis’ wrestling-based style can probably use all the boosting it can get), placing your focus ahead of a fighter with “Rumble’s” ferocious knockout power is never a good thing.
Especially not this reinvented version of Johnson. While people’s opinions of him used to affect Johnson’s mindset greatly, he’s now taken the easier path of just doing what he has to in order to become the best fighter possible:
"If I never got invited back into the UFC, I would have accepted it and made it work to the best of my ability," he said. "If that's the way the dice rolled, then that's just how they rolled. I always believed in myself back in the day, but I'd go on the [MMA] websites and I was high on cloud nine and believing in myself, and then I'd read somebody's negative comment about something that could happen, and it would get in my head a little bit," he said. "Now, I just don't give a damn."
That’s probably a good course of action for Johnson, a combatant who is always faced with his fair share of media attention and criticism. He’s apparently worked diligently to put the wrongs of his past behind him, and has been rewarded with a blockbuster bout for his efforts.
Is he the roadblock that will stand in the way of “Mr. Wonderful’s” perceived run at a UFC title shot?