The comments are unavoidable each time Anthony Johnson (6-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) steps into the cage.
Typically cutting just over 30 pounds in the days before each fight in the UFC’s 170-pound division, Johnson and his 6’2″ frame typically loom large over his opponent. When Johnson faces 5’8″ Luigi Fioravanti at Saturday’s “UFC Fight Night 17: Lauzon vs. Stephens,” the comments will undoubtedly be made again.
But as Johnson recently told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com), Fioravanti simply can’t be overlooked — no matter how far “Rumble” looks over him.
“It’s going to take everything to beat [Fioravanti],” Johnson said. “He’s tough. He’s 5’8″, or however tall he is, but he’s tough. To me, he’s probably the smallest, toughest guy in the weight class.”
Less than two full months removed from a rematch of his controversial loss to Kevin Burns, Johnson is ready to put the events of those two bouts fully in the past.
“I was over the whole thing as soon as it happened,” Johnson said. “Everybody made a big controversy over it, but I was like, ‘Whatever. Things happen, and they happen for a reason.’ I was just ready to move on to the next thing, but [the UFC] wanted me to fight him again. So I was like, ‘OK.'”
Now faced with an entirely different opponent, Johnson is excited to showcase an array of skills on Saturday night.
“I think it will be all over the place,” Johnson said. “[Fioravanti] likes to mix it up and so do I. People see that I can wrestle, so people are starting to remember that I can’t just punch. I can wrestle, too.
“This is mixed martial arts, and we’re in the top organization in the world. We’re supposed to mix it up. So I think we’re both going to go out there and do what we’re supposed to do to win.”
Johnson’s three wins in the UFC have all come by devastating knockout. The 24-year-old said he hopes to continue that trend, but he realizes that those opening aren’t always easy to find.
“You can’t knock everybody out in the first minute,” Johnson said. “I think that’s what a lot of people expect when they see me fight. They expect me to just go out there and knock somebody’s head off in the first minute. It’s not like that.
“You’ve got to expect reality. Life isn’t like that. Fighting isn’t like that. So you have to warm up and get your mojo going a little bit before you can actually connect the right one. It’s just going to take time before you can get that right punch, so this fight hopefully I’ll find the right punch and it will land.”
While Johnson knows he won’t always be able to land the devastating blows he has quickly become known for, he does want fans to know that he’ll always push the pace.
“To me at least [the fans] are looking forward to seeing something,” Johnson said. “They know I’m going to go out there and fight. It might not be knockout all the time, but they know they’re going to get at least one good hit out of me during the fight. But it’s no pressure on me.
“If it’s not the knockout they’re looking for, it’s at least someone who is fighting with all they have and going out there and doing the best that they can. If it’s not a knockout, I think they just expect someone that will go 110 miles an hour the whole fight.”
It’s that type of aggressive demeanor that has quickly made Johnson a fan favorite. And while the California resident has yet to find his way on to a pay-per-view event, Johnson said he’s just fine being featured on future UFC Fight Night presentations.
“I actually love Fight Night,” Johnson said. “[The UFC] can keep me on Fight Night as long as they want. People get to see the Fight Night’s for free, and Fight Night is actually what helped me get my name out there.
“A lot of people can’t afford the pay-per-views, but they can afford a little cable. I can make sure my fights are seen and get some great exposure for my sponsors at BSN, Tapout.com, Fulltiltpoker.net, Free-bsn.com, Gutcheck.tv, stradawheels.com and Knoxxgear.com, so the cable is actually helping me better than the pay-per-views right now.”
As usual, Johnson will hold a significant size advantage over Fioravanti on Saturday’s Spike TV broadcast-opening bout. But as the welterweight makes small steps up the 170-pound division ladder, Johnson knows the skills of his opponent can offset any difference in stature.
“To me every fight gets tougher and tougher,” Johnson said. “The bigger my name gets the tougher the competition gets. [Fioravanti] is not a slouch at all. I expect a good fight. He’s tough. Hands down, he’s tough.”