It is currently open season in the Bellator heavyweight division after former champion Vitaly Minakov was stripped from his title after an extended hiatus from the Viacom promotion. One such heavyweight looking to step up and reign supreme is the 10-2 Tony Johnson, who is slated to square off with long-time veteran Cheick Kongo at Bellator 161 on September 16, 2016. Johnson spoke with Bloody Elbow's Eddie Mercado about his upcoming heavyweight showdown with Kongo, title aspirations, and even calls out his next opponent.
Interview: Heavyweight Tony Johnson Bellator 161 **AUDIO ONLY**
Tony Johnson touched on why upon his return to the Bellator brand, he opted to face their former heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov:
"My manager came to me and said, 'look, Bellator said you can have a warm up fight,' like Matt Mitrione did, 'or you just go right in.' I decided to go right in. I want the fights. I want the names. I don't need warm up fights anymore. I'm ready so I don't need that. They asked me did I want him or an easier fight; I wanted him. I want the hard fights. I'm never going to back down from anybody. If I have enough time to to train then i'll take any fight; I don't care."
Was that a little foreshadowing to a calling out of Matt Mitrione?
"Absolutely that was foreshadowing to call his punk ass out. I just think he's number one for no dam reason, honestly. He hasn't beat nobody. He just almost got knocked out by buddy in St. Louis. Now had that been me, if I hit him, he'd a been sleep and he wouldn't have gotten back up. So yeah Matt Mitrione, I'm coming for you man. You better believe that, for sure."
Tony Johnson confessed an urge to keep the fight on the feet with Kongo:
"I kind of want to exchange with him, honestly. I haven't showed that part of my game. People in Nashville and people that spar with me know that I have real good striking. I just haven't showed it. I haven't been comfortable enough in the cage to showcase it. But I'm getting comfortable. God help the heavyweights when I do get comfortable; it's going to be bad for everybody"
Watch Tony Johnson take on Cheick Kongo at Bellator 161 live on Spike TV on September 16, 2016. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for your full event coverage including news, previews, results, and more!