Just Wednesday, Ali Abdelaziz, the manager of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson had broken the news via twitter that his fighter has signed a multi year deal with Scott Coker’s Bellator MMA. Johnson was signed to Dana White’s powerhouse UFC promotion, nothing has been said if there were any disagreements or bad blood between Johnson and the UFC. Abdelaziz stated to ESPN, “Anthony has signed with Bellator MMA and fans can expect to see him in late March or April.” “He will fight at heavyweight and light heavyweight” and he went on to thank Dana White, Hunter Campbell, and the UFC for all the opportunities.
That last statement was huge to me and made me extremely happen to hear. Johnson is 36 and started his career at welterweight which is just insane to even imagine considering how big we have seen “Rumble.” Originally started at welterweight and eventually moved up to middleweight, Johnson struggled to make weight often. His second run in the UFC we saw a completely different fighter when he at first moved to light heavyweight. All in all, in his second run we saw “Rumble” go 6-2, with one of the victories being an absolute obliteration of Bellator’s Heavyweight Champion Ryan “Darth” Bader in the first round. His only two losses in the second run both came at the hands of Daniel Cormier, and in both battles “Rumble” came on strong but eventually gassed out. Both of these fights were for the UFC Lightweight title.
After the last loss to Cormier, Johnson stated that he was retiring from the sport of MMA. Whilst retired he opened a very successful CBD oil company, and even was appointed as the head of fighter relations for Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship. Just a few weeks ago Johnson posted a video stating that he was coming back to the sport of MMA and all of us just assumed he would be fighting for the UFC. So no one really knows why Johnson decided to sign with Bellator. Dana White has come out this week and stated that possibly 60 fighters were going to be released, so maybe Dana gave Johnson a heads up. No one really knows, but the one thing we do know is “Rumble” is in Bellator and I am definitely excited to let you guys know just how I think this thing is gonna play out.
Anthony “ Rumble” Johnson never disappoints with his relentless non stop aggression. When he swings, he swings with bad intentions and when he connects, he slices like a knife! I think Bellator made a really good move here with this signing. Anyone that has read anything I’ve written knows I am not overly fond of Bellator. But Scott Coker, to his credit, has been making major changes by passing on signings of older fighters that the UFC have cut or just are at an advanced age, fighters like Fabricio Werdum, who just signed with the Professional Fight League. They also didn’t sign on UFC Middleweight legends Anderson Silva or the recently released Yoel Romero, who was just released this week. I think that’s a tremendous step in trying to get rid of the stigma of being called a “UFC graveyard.” Also making changes to the website by deleting the profiles of older legends from the UFC like Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie, by releasing Quentin “Rampage” Jackson and “Big Country” Roy Nelson increase their legitimacy. And even though Johnson is a former UFC fighter and quite successful, he has had almost a three year hiatus, opposed to the other fighters Coker mentioned. He’s only thirty six and still has a lot of mileage on him, and brings a lot of star power with him from the UFC.
Coker has specifically been building on the Light Heavyweight division. Earlier this year he signed former UFC Contender, Corey Anderson, and their Champion, Vadim Nemkov is always a game opponent. I’ve always been a fan, and was so happy he dethroned the ultra boring Bader. I know what you’re thinking reading those last two sentences, a lot of “former UFC” in there. But let be honest, you can’t fault Bellator for picking great fighters just because they didn’t go where they wanted to go in the UFC. In my eyes, Anderson was never booked right, and other fighters that were less qualified got pushed just because they had star power. Anderson also falls into that category, UFC pushed guys like Johnny Walker over Anderson, even after Anderson beat him he still didn’t get the credit, sometimes relationships just don’t work out. These were two perfect examples, and I think Johnson falls into the same category of these Anderson and Nemkov. There are just two of the good fighters I would love to see “Rumble” face, and they both in my eyes might give Johnson problems with their grappling, but know this, Johnson is ONE PUNCH away from any fight and that’s why we love him.
There are also Bellator homers like Julius Anglickas, he’s up and coming, 9-1, with heavy hands and enormous strength. My point being there are a lot of opportunities in the light heavyweight division. But the most intriguing part of what his manager, Abdelaziz said, is that he would possibly move up to heavyweight as well. The first fight that came to my mind would be a rematch with heavyweight Champ Ryan Bader. There’s a lot of good fights for him at heavyweight as well, Linton Vassell and Chieck Kongo would be super entertaining, but the fight I think we all want is Bader vs Johnson.
In my opinion, Bader is bad for any business or division, he holds the belt, rarely defends and when he does, you need a twelve pack of Red Bull to keep you awake. Johnson would be a great champion for Bellator, he is exciting, doesn’t duck fighters or get injured when the wind blows. My point is he would bring attention to both the heavy and the light heavy division.
So my overall thoughts are that Scott Coker got another one right with signing Johnson. He’s still very entertaining, he has a lot of great matchups waiting for him when he’s ready to go, and because of his heavy hands and knockout power, PPVs he’s on usually do good numbers. Because unlike when Bader fights, people are excited to watch because they know there’s gonna be action. Congratulations to Scott Coker and Bellator MMA for a very smart business move!