Anthony Johnson is planning a return to mixed martial arts, according to the former two-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger’s manager — but in a new weight class.
Ali Abdelaziz of Dominance MMA Management told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s The MMA Hour that “Rumble” will most likely fight again — but not at 205 pounds. Instead, Johnson plans to make his debut in the UFC heavyweight division. Abdelaziz said he and Johnson will talk to UFC executives this week about the knockout artist’s potential comeback.
“Rumble Johnson, we plan on him fighting — it has to make sense for him. Me and him have been talking,” Abdelaziz said. “He’ll come back as a heavyweight. We want him to come back as a heavyweight. ... We’re meeting with the UFC this week to see what he wants to do.
“Dana White really loves Anthony Johnson. How can you not love Anthony Johnson? He’s terrifying. But we’ll see what happens.”
Johnson retired in April after a second-round submission loss to light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier at UFC 210. The Combat Club athlete stepped away from the sport to open up a medical marijuana dispensary, and it was rumored he had accepted an off-field position with an NFL football team.
Johnson has been relatively quiet since his retirement, but he did hint at a comeback during the Alexander Gustafsson vs. Glover Teixeira fight in May. He also said in August he would only return to fight then-champion Jon Jones if the “price” was right.
Upon retiring, Johnson also left the USADA testing pool. Per a UFC anti-doping policy rule, returning fighters who decided themselves to leave the UFC must undergo six months of random drug testing after re-entering the pool before competing. That means if Johnson re-enters the pool as soon as this week, he’d be eligible to fight in the Octagon in the first week of April.
One of the most devastating strikers in the sport, Johnson (22-6) has never fought in the UFC as a heavyweight. He’s competed at heavyweight once in his career, but it was against Andrei Arlovski in WSOF. In recent years, Johnson has competed in the light heavyweight division, where he fought for the title twice and holds wins over Gustafsson, Teixeira, Ryan Bader, Jimi Manuwa, and Phil Davis. Johnson has fought in the past as low as 170 pounds, but he struggled to make weight at both welterweight and middleweight.
If Johnson moves up to heavyweight, that would also make him the third fighter in UFC history to compete in four divisions, following Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez. But there’s an asterisk: in his only agreed middleweight bout — a 2012 fight against Vitor Belfort — he missed weight by 11 pounds, resulting in a catchweight bout, which he lost by submission.