Rumblings over the past several months had former UFC light heavyweight contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson returning to Octagon to resume his career.
Those plans have changed. News broke on Wednesday that Johnson has instead left the UFC to sign a multi-year agreement to fight for Bellator MMA.
Officials confirmed the news to MMAWeekly.com following an initial report by ESPN.
The move appears to have been amicable, and quite possibly part of the slimming of the roster that UFC president Dana White said was coming by year’s end.
“Anthony has signed with Bellator MMA and fans can expect to see him in late March or April,” Ali Abdelaziz, Johnson’s manager, told ESPN.
“He will fight at heavyweight and light heavyweight. Anthony and I would like to thank Dana White, Hunter Campbell and the UFC for the opportunities he was given over the years, and he’s excited about this new chapter with Bellator.”
Anthony Johnson’s lengthy UFC history was a roller coaster ride
Johnson, 36, has spent the better part of his career fighting under the UFC banner. He first entered the Octagon in 2007. Johnson went 7-4 during his initial 11-bout tenure as a welterweight, knocking out all but one of the seven opponents that he defeated.
Having trouble with the scale, even after he moved up to middleweight, Johnson exited the UFC following a 2012 loss to Vitor Belfort.
He reinvented himself outside of the Octagon winning six bouts (with four knockouts) at light heavyweight and heavyweight before returning to the UFC in 2014.
He went 6-2 during his second UFC tenure, fighting exclusively at light heavyweight. Johnson only lost to Daniel Cormier during that run, both times in title fights. He knocked out five of the six opponents he defeated, including former Bellator light heavyweight champion and current Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader.
Anthony Johnson’s retirement and subsequent return
Following his second loss to Cormier at UFC 210 in 2017, Johnson announced his retirement.
After several years on the sidelines, Johnson had intended to resume his UFC career. He event entered the USADA testing pool and had been tested four times prior to signing with Bellator.
Johnson leaving to fight for Bellator could easily be part of the recent announcement by White that the UFC would be releasing about 60 fighters by the end of the year.
In athlete years, Johnson is toward the end of his career and had already failed to capture UFC gold.
That put him in a category similar to Yoel Romero, who was recently released, with White saying of him, “Yoel has lost four of his last five. He’s 44 years old.
“It’s not just Yoel. We’re going to go through some serious cuts here at the end of the year. We’re probably going to have 60 cuts before the first of the year.”
Now we’ll see what Johnson can do in his return under the Bellator banner, which will likely include a rematch with Bader at some point.
Related > Anthony Johnson talking earlier this year about his comeback
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