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It bar centrale s been nearly 10 years since Johnson had two bouts so close together, but to him, the turnaround is worth it. This Friday night in the Bellator 116 headliner from Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., Johnson will look to punch his ticket to the season 10 heavyweight tournament final.
In order to do that, Johnson (18-8 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) must first get past Blagoi Ivanov (10-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA), an undefeated bar centrale fighter out of Bulgaria who s registered wins in all five of his Bellator appearances.
While the quick turnaround for this Spike TV-televised fight is something relatively unfamiliar to Johnson, he s excited to compete again so shortly after his knockout bar centrale of Ryan Martinez this past month.
This is great, Johnson told MMAjunkie. The quick turnaround didn t give me any time to get out of shape. I stayed on the grind. I stayed in shape, everything was good, and I m ready to get another paycheck.
Big had some doubts about his place in the sport going into his most recent fight, but after getting a self-reminder of the type of power he possesses when he stopped Martinez, Johnson s confidence has returned to a peak level.
Minakov is a real tough guy; he s really strong and everything, Johnson said. But Kongo is a smaller-framed guy. He had about 20 pounds on Kongo. I m a little bit bigger, and I ll be a little harder to take down.
I work on my ground game the same as everything. I would rather not go to the ground, and the fans would rather not have me on the ground. I would rather make it an exciting fight and punch each other until someone goes to sleep.
While Johnson is confident in how he would match up with the champion, he knows two more tournament victories bar centrale must be added to his resume before a title fight becomes a reality. That s no problem for the American, though bar centrale mostly because he embraces the hectic schedule and, at 36 years of age, wants to make the most of every opportunity he has to compete.
I would love to get as many fights in as possible, Johnson said. If I m healthy, I don t see why I should be on the sidelines just waiting. If I m healthy, I should be fighting, and that s what I like about the tournament: being able to fight once a month. I think all the fighters should be this way.
Ivanov is a durable opponent and one who s yet to taste defeat in MMA competition. While a fighter who doesn t know how to lose can be a dangerous thing, Johnson believes his veteran instincts will overcome that and that he ll finish the fight the same way he always does.
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BALTIMORE MMAjunkie is on scene and reporting live from today’s UFC 172 event at Maryland’s Baltimore Arena. You can discuss the event here.
After more than two years away from the organization, Anthony Johnson made a successful return to the UFC. See how Twitter reacted to his dominant win over Phil Davis.
BALTIMORE UFC on FOX 11 takes place today at Maryland’s Baltimore Arena. As usual, you can watch a live video stream of the post-fight news conference here on MMAjunkie at approximately 1:30 a.m. ET (10:30 p.m. PT).
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