After Completion Of WSOF Contract, Bidding War Expected To Erupt Over Anthony Johnson

rumble-johnson After capturing his sixth win in a row, and his second face-plant KO victory over his last three fights, light heavyweight Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is the hottest commodity on the free agent market in MMA, and a bidding war over his services is expected to erupt immediately. Johnson, 29, was a long-time stalwart of the UFC welterweight division but was unceremoniously released after failing to make weight on three separate occasions. Although he had a solid 7-4 record in the Octagon, coming in at 197 pounds for a middleweight but at UFC 142 against Vitor Belfort was the last straw for UFC president Dana White and UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, and they let Johnson go with no reservations. Instead of feeling bad for himself and fading away into obscurity, however, Johnson dedicated himself to improvement, and with the help of his training partners and coaches at the Blackzilians, he has turned into a whole new fighter since leaving the UFC, picking up six-straight wins as mentioned above. Those victories have come over Mike Kyle (KO), Andrei Arlovski (UD), DJ Linderman (KO), Jake Rosholt (TKO), Esteves Jones (TKO), and David Branch (UD). Three of those fighters were former UFC fighters and one is a former Bellator fighter, so it’s not like “Rumble” has just been racking up wins over cans on the regional circuit. No, he’s been beating the cream of the crop outside of the UFC, and now he deserves his chance to head back to the big show. But will the UFC even offer him a contract considering his checkered history with the promotion? I would say yes, they will. At this point, how can they not? Yes, at UFC 158, White did tell me in the media scrum that the fight between Arlovski and Johnson was irrelevant because it was contested at heavyweight, but I can’t imagine White and Silva weren’t trying to hide their interest in a fighter signed to another promotion. And since that time, Johnson defeated Arlovski in dominant fashion and then Kyle with one punch. The guy is good, and considering the UFC light heavyweight division is lacking right now as far as fresh contenders go, the UFC would be silly not to give “Rumble” a contract offer. At the same time, though, I expect WSOF to try to keep Johnson in the fold. Although WSOF is and up-and-coming promotion, let’s face it, they don’t have many recognizable stars at the moment. However, Johnson is one of them, and that’s why I expect WSOF to make him a very big contract offer to try and keep him around, and possibly even build their promotion around him. Also, don’t forget that even if the UFC offers Johnson a deal, WSOF will have full contract matching rights since he will be a restricted free agent for a year, although it’s hard to say if WSOF would exercise those rights knowing what their matchmaker Ali Abdel-Aziz has said about Bellator and the Eddie Alvarez “hostage” situation if Johnson makes it known to them that he’d rather fight in the UFC. And speaking of Bellator, I expect that the Viacom-owned promotion will also make a call to Johnson’s manager. I mean, why not? Sure, he’s far more likely to sign with the UFC or with WSOF, but Bellator could really use Johnson to help spruce up their light heavyweight division, and matchups against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Emanuel Newton are far more interesting than anything WSOF could put together at this time (but far from as interesting as what the UFC could put together). And who knows, maybe ONE FC gives Johnson’s agent a call, too. For Johnson, his decision on where to sign will likely come down to if he wants to make the most money, or if he wants to fight the best in the world. If he wants to make the most money, then WSOF (or ONE FC) is the best place for him to go. But if he wants to fight the best 205 pounders in the world and become the world champion, then the UFC is the best place to go, no doubt about it. Either way, I expect the bidding war to start ramping up quickly, and look for Johnson to make his decision of his next home in the next few weeks. And whatever promotion does end up getting him will be very lucky, because they will be getting one of the best light heavyweights out there to fight for them. Now, let’s just hope he can keep making weight.

Written by Adam Martin.

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