Teammate Rashad Evans believes Johnson will dominate at 185 pounds
Anthony Johnson‘s move from welterweight to middleweight was supposed to help make his weight cut easier. But in his first fight at 185 pounds, “Rumble” missed, officially, and missed badly.
Johnson weighed in at 197 pounds on Friday, 11 pounds north of the 186-pound maximum for a non-title middleweight fight. Johnson, who reportedly walks around as heavy as 225 pounds, which forced cuts in the 55-pound range when he fought at welterweight, will forfeit 20 percent of his fight purse to opponent Vitor Belfort for tonight’s UFC 142 co-main event – and he still has to weigh in once more today and come in at 205 pounds or less, per an adjusted bout agreement with Belfort.
Johnson also drew the ire of his boss, UFC president Dana White, who on Fuel TV’s broadcast of the weigh-ins from HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, called the fighter “a total unprofessional” for missing the mark that badly. But in a report from USA Today, Johnson’s manager, Glenn Robinson, said the fighter was close to hitting the target number – but was stopped by the UFC’s on-site doctor. Robinson told the paper Johnson was just 1.5 pounds away from making weight, but became weak and ill – and was told by the doctor to start taking fluids to see if his condition would improve rather than cut the additional weight. It was that fluid intake, Robinson said, that contributed to the 197-pound weight.
Johnson, on his official Facebook page, said those criticizing him for missing weight are off the mark this time. In Johnson’s second UFC fight, at UFC 76 in September 2007, he came in at 177.5 pounds for a welterweight fight. He lost by submission to Rich Clementi at a catch weight. At UFC 104 just over a year later, he beat Yoshiyuki Yoshida by knockout – but again was off weight and fought at a 176-pound catch weight.
“I’m already laughing at what ppl are saying,” Johnson posted on Facebook. “Yeah it was for medical reason and I did what the UFC Dr Told me to do. Believe it or don’t I give a (expletive) cuz the ppl close to me were freaking out but I’m still alive and something like this has never happen before. Say what you want I’m still gonna do my thang. You try not having feeling in your legs and can’t move then and see how you look at life after that.”
Belfort agreed to go through with the fight, but with the stipulation that Johnson not weigh more than 205 pounds by this afternoon. Belfort, fighting in his native Brazil for the first time since 1998, weighed in at 186 pounds. Robinson told USA Today he expects his client to meet the new weight requirement without trouble. But on the Fuel TV broadcast of the weigh-ins, White was clearly displeased with his welterweight-turned-middleweight, whose new fight day weight needs to be that of a light heavyweight.
“This is just one of those things, again, as a fighter you are a professional,” White said. “You are contracted to come in at a certain weight. This is not the first time this has happened with Johnson. He moved up to 185 pounds so this wouldn’t happen to him at 170 pounds. And here we are in this same position again. Vitor was bummed out. Vitor feels the same way I do. Vitor Belfort has to cut this weight, too. Vitor Belfort is older than Rumble Johnson. He came in like a professional, on weight, and Anthony Johnson comes in as a total unprofessional, way overweight.”
Ironically, just an hour before the weigh-ins began in Rio, the UFC issued a press release with comments from Rashad Evans, Johnson’s teammate at Imperial Athletics in Boca Raton, Fla., talking about Johnson’s new home at middleweight and what an impact he could have in the division because his training camps can now be focused more on training and less on cutting weight.
“Where he is right now, he’s so scary,” Evans said in the release. “You can’t imagine how much of a difference moving up to middleweight has made to not only his strength, but also his technique. As a welterweight, maybe 60 percent of his camp was about making 170 pounds, leaving only 40 percent for boxing, striking, wrestling, (Brazilian jiu-jitsu), judo and everything else. Much less than half of his time was actually spent on improving his skills and transitions. Now he’s spending maybe 80 percent and more on technique and real fitness training, not just training to lose pounds. He’s a scary, scary athlete right now. I like Vitor a lot, and everyone respects him as a fighter, but Rumble will send a message to the entire division this Saturday in Rio. Honestly, being up a weight is the best thing he ever did. There’s no doubt in my mind he will be challenging everyone in the division. It’s ridiculous, the difference it has made.”