Anthony Johnson is making some long overdue changes to his life and career starting with his next fight in 2012.
For years the former UFC fighter had been struggling and fighting to make weight, originally cutting down to 170 pounds, but missing the limit on several occasions.
Even a move to 185 pounds didn't help, as he struggled mightily once again before exiting the UFC, and then again when he debuted for Titan Fighting Championships earlier this year.
The battle to cut the weight has done massive damage to Johnson's image in the fight world, but maybe the biggest war he's been losing this whole time is the toll its taken on his body.
“I was trying to cut the weight the day before the fight, water was coming out and everything was working, then the day of the fight stuff just stopped working. My body just pretty much shut down again,” Johnson explained to MMAWeekly.com when speaking about cutting weight for his last fight against David Branch.
“I think it's from me cutting so much to 170 that my body's like I can't do this tremendous amount of weight cutting anymore. That's why I just have to move up.”
After two unsuccessful tries to get his body to cut weight down to 185 pounds, Johnson is done playing the dangerous game of sucking his body dry each and every time he fights and he's making the move to light heavyweight.
At six-foot-two, Johnson's frame already seemed suited for the bigger weight class, but like most fighters it was always his belief that the more weight you could cut the better. Now that philosophy has taken its toll on him mentally and more importantly physically and he just can't go through it anymore.
“I try not to let it bother me, I just try to think of the fight itself and then when something like this happens and my body just starts acting up I just wait till after to really think about what's going on. I just tell myself to keep pushing and keep trying and if I don't succeed then hopefully I get another chance, another day to try again,” Johnson said about the sheer mental strain that happened with each fight.
“I sat down with my coaches and we just decided that 205 would be best for me. That way I can perform even better and I don't have much to worry about, if anything. We're excited about it and I feel good about it already. I already feel like I have more energy, more strength, and I'm excited about it.”
Johnson admits that half of the battles he fought in training camp were surrounding his constant need to try and keep his weight down. As each fight drew closer, the strain ate away at him. Just making weight on the scales became as important as actually preparing for the battle ahead.
“It makes a huge difference. I look forward to training now and doing everything and the fact that I can be pretty much where I want and be like hey I've only got 15 pounds to go. I'm two months away from a fight possibly, so it takes a lot of stress off my mind and I won't be letting other people down and letting myself down. It makes me want to fight again,” said Johnson.
“Before I was like, this just isn't working. Now I'm like, I can handle this.”
Over the course of the last few years, while Johnson has faced his struggles with the weight cuts, he's also heard the criticism from fans, media and promoters. He's not oblivious to the fact that missing weight is seen as an unprofessional slap in the face to other fighters and the promotions themselves.
But don't take Anthony Johnson as an uncaring individual who just couldn't put down the fattening foods and opted not to try to cut the weight. It was a mind warping battle each and every time, but eventually Johnson had to concede.
Now with the decision to move to light heavyweight, Johnson feels renewed and reborn and ready to focus on fighting, not on making weight.
“It's like it's either now or never. Now's the time and I've just got to run with it. Each camp I feel a little bit better, I keep improving, doing better things inside the gym, and outside of the gym. Everything is progressing more and more even though I've had my ups and downs,” Johnson said.
“I know I can fight at 205, that won't be a problem. Cause I have the size, speed and the strength for it. I probably should have been fighting 205 a long time ago, but just being me thinking I can do it all, making dumb decisions, maturing, it's going to work out.”
Now that Johnson is committed to fighting at 205 pounds, he's just waiting on the official call to get back in the cage again. No fight has been set right now, but he's anxious to accept a bout, sign on the dotted line and show the world what he looks like at light heavyweight.
“Hell, I'm here to fight,” said Johnson. “Put somebody in there and let's do it.”