Henri Hooft says Anthony Johnson explosive as ever despite long layoff: ‘His style goes on forever’

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Farah Hannoun and Mike Bohn
·2 min read
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DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. – Henri Hooft doesn’t expect Anthony Johnson to have skipped a beat in his return.

After more than four years away from the sport, Johnson (22-6 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) will lace up the gloves in a new organization when he takes on Jose Augusto in a quarterfinal tournament bout at Bellator 258 on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

Johnson announced his retirement from MMA after failing to capture the light heavyweight title for a second time against Daniel Cormier at UFC 210 in 2017. Prior to losing to Cormier in the rematch, Johnson starched Jimi Manuwa, current Bellator heavyweight champ Ryan Bader and upcoming UFC light heavyweight title challenger Glover Teixeira.

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Although Johnson has been away from action for a significant amount of time, his head coach says he’s been at the gym constantly, so expects him to pick up right where he left off when he was one of the most dangerous contenders at 205 pounds.

“I always thought ‘A.J.’ has the style that can go on for a longer time,” Hooft recently told MMA Junkie. “He’s a very explosive fighter (and) doesn’t take a lot of damage in his fights. Mostly, he does the damage on his opponents – and that’s what we still see. He’s 36, 37 now and he’s still explosive.

“I think Anthony is going to be Anthony. He’s going to bring a lot of violence to the fight – very explosive guy, and I’m excited just as all the fans probably are to sit there and see what’s going to happen, because you’re going to see fireworks when he fights.”

Johnson was originally scheduled to face Yoel Romero in one of the most highly anticipated matchups in Bellator history. But after Romero wasn’t medically cleared to compete, Johnson got Augusto (7-2-1 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) as a replacement.

But Hooft is just as excited to see him compete, regardless of opponent.

“His style goes on forever,” Hooft said. “He has knockout power in hands and legs, and he’s attractive. People want to see him fight because he doesn’t just knock people out, he puts them to sleep. … He doesn’t try to knock people out, but he’s so fast and explosive that it’s dangerous. The only guy that really beat him was ‘D.C.,’ and that’s not a bad guy. That’s a big champion. So I’m excited.”

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