“Rumble” was scheduled to face Jon Jones – who was champion at the time – but the fight fell apart after Jones was involved in a felony hit-and-run traffic incident three weeks before the pay-per-view event. Jones was pulled from the fight card, stripped of the belt, and Cormier stepped in to face Johnson for the vacant light heavyweight title.
It’s been nearly two years since Cormier and Johnson’s first meeting, and the challenger insists that he’s not the same fighter he was in 2015.
“I’m definitely not the same fighter I was two years ago. Every day, every week, every month, every year, I’m getting better and better. You’ll see a different guy out there the next time you see me fight,” Johnson said during the UFC 210 media conference call.
Johnson knocked Cormier down in the opening round of their first fight. Cormier felt his power, but was able to quickly recover. The champion has stated that Johnson is most dangerous in the first five minutes of a fight, and that his finishing prowess diminishes as the minutes tick off the clock. Johnson disagrees, but is okay with his opponent’s belief that he is only a first-round fighter.
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“The majority of the community believes that I’m just a first-round fighter because most of my fights end in the first round,” he said. “I’ve just got to go out there and be myself and do what I do.”
Twelve of Johnson’s 22 wins have been first-round finishes, but he’s also knocked out opponents in the second and third rounds. He enters the rematch with Cormier with the mindset of just being “Rumble.”
“My mentality is to go out there and do my best, do whatever I have to do to win, just be myself, and do my thing. The cards are going to fall where they are supposed to, so I’m not worried about anything.”