Since the former Greco-Roman Olympian was announced as Rumbles replacement, DC wasted no time in adding fuel to the fire for UFC 187's new main attraction. The former heavyweight contender belittled Johnson's previous Octagon outings at welterweight, which saw a sub-optimal Anthony Johnson succumb to Josh Koscheck in 2009 and Vitor Belfort at a catchweight bout of 197 lbs in 2012. Both Koscheck (a former AKA teammate of Cormier) and Belfort were able to lock up rear-naked chokes on the Blackzilian standout, but Rumble feels as though he's gone through a career resurgence:
"Nah, it doesn't bother me. He can think what he wants. I'm going to still be who I am. I'm nowhere close to the fighter I used to be. A lot of people still think that I am that same fighter that fought at 170, but I'm a different kind of animal right now. Everybody can think and say whatever they want. I know who I am, and we'll see. Personally, I don't care what he thinks, he's entitled to his own opinion. I just have to focus on me and do me," Johnson said on The MMAHour.
Since his weight cutting difficulties which led to a departure from the UFC in 2012, the reinvigorated light-heavyweight has transformed from a dehydrated, drained welterweight, to a hulking 205 lb. contender - primed and ready to seize promotional gold at UFC 187.
The 31-year-old admitted he would have preferred to dethrone divisional kingpin Jon Jones, but is just as prepared for 'the next best' in Daniel Cormier on May 23rd:
"Yeah, everybody wants to be the guy to beat the guy, know what I mean? I was disappointed, know what I mean? Because I worked so hard to fight the best and I can't fight the champion, so now I'm focused on the next best in Daniel Cormier."
Since molding to his optimal weight of 205 lbs., Johnson has made light work of the division's aspiring contenders, toppling Phil Davis, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Alexander Gustafsson en route to his championship showdown on May 23rd. The brooding light-heavyweight feels as though he'll earn his divisional stake as the 'true champion' if he beats Daniel Cormier - despite Jon Jones' absence:
"Yeah, I will feel I'm the champion if I beat him. I worked my ass off to get where I am. It's not my fault, not anybody's fault with what happened with Jon. Jon did that to himself, everybody knows that. But, life goes on and you got to keep it moving, But when he comes back, if I still have the title and it's time to fight him, I'll fight him. One day we will fight," Rumble concluded.