Renowned knockout ace, Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson linked up with Scott Coker’s Bellator MMA yesterday afternoon on a multi-fight deal, however, the former two-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger is unlikely to debut under his new banner in a championship bout.
Johnson called time on his professional mixed martial arts career back in April of 2017 following a second-round rear-naked choke defeat to Daniel ‘DC’ Cormier, and despite re-entering the USADA testing-pool ahead of a projected April return to the Octagon, penned a multi-fight deal with Bellator.
The Dublin, Georgia native is expected to feature in the promotion’s light heavyweight division in the first half of 2021 — a division currently dominated by Vadim Nemkov. Briefly floated for a first heavyweight excursion since 2013 in his expected UFC return, Johnson is now expected to make his return to that weight class with Bellator.
Speaking with MMA Junkie reporter, Nolan King, Bellator MMA leader, Coker expressed his delight with the signature of Johnson to a multi-fight contract.
“When you get a fighter (Anthony Johnson) like that, of that quality, with a lot of upsides, (and) you put him in our 205-pound weight class, it’s the best 205-pound weight class on the planet,” Coker said. “To me, he’s just going to add a lot of great fights in that division. I’m looking forward to getting him in there and just start mixing it up and let these guys fight it out.“
Touching on Johnson’s plans for an eventual return to the heavyweight division, Coker explained how the promotion had no reservations against facilitating that idea.
“I think if you see pictures of him recently, they said he’s going to be comfortable at 205(-pounds),” Coker said. “If he wants to fight at heavyweight, we’ll give him that opportunity as well. I think at 205, we have some great matchups for him. We’re going to let them all ‘rumble’ it out.“
Whilst Johnson joins recent fellow former UFC contender, Corey ‘Overtime’ Anderson to the promotion — Coker noted how it’s likely the former will score a number of fights under their banner to begin with, instead of an immediate tilt at 205-pound gold.
“He’s probably going to want to fight a couple of times because he hasn’t been fighting,” Coker said. “To me, I think that (first there will be) a couple of fights. Then, the sky is the limit.“
Regarded as one of the most devastating strikers in the sport’s history, Johnson has scored an incredible sixteen knockout wins since his professional bow back in August of 2006 — including stoppages of Glover Teixeira, Jimi Manuwa, Alexander Gustafsson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Charlie Brenneman, and a 2016 stoppage of current Bellator heavyweight best, Ryan Bader.