Anthony Johnson has become a new man over the last several months.
Following his exit from the UFC earlier this year, Johnson had to face some hard truths about his future as a fighter, and it forced him to look in the mirror and find out what kind of man he was going to become.
Gone are the days of cutting drastic amounts of weight to drop to 170 pounds, and even a brief move to middleweight didn't work out when his body simply couldn't not drain another ounce of water to allow him to make the 185-pound limit.
So Johnson made the move to 205 pounds and the results have been impressive. Through two fights at light heavyweight thus far, Johnson has two wins, two stoppages, and now he's looking for his third at World Series of Fighting this weekend in Las Vegas.
As he approaches his latest endeavor in the cage, Johnson is more mature now not only in body, but in his mental approach as well. For years it seemed like Johnson was carrying a bit of a chip on his shoulder, running as a lone wolf without a pack behind him.
Now with a solid group of trainers and teammates at the Blackzilians in Florida, Johnson has not only found a home, but he's found a family that's helping him look at the positive things he has going into fights, while eliminating the negative that was always around him.
“I think I just needed to grow as a person and as a fighter to be who I am right now. Being around these guys, and being so supportive and all positive, you can't help but be that way when you're around a group of guys the way I am. Over these past couple years, this is where I need to be and where I'm supposed to be,” Johnson stated recently on MMAWeekly Radio.
Now, don't think for a second that just because Johnson is walking around with a smile on his face instead of a grimace, that his killer instinct inside the cage has faded at all.
Johnson believes he's more dangerous now than ever because the coaches he's working with are instilling a new set of skills in him that he's never had before.
It's making him a finisher, and not just the kind that goes out there and looks for the knockout. Johnson wants to put an opponent away by any means necessary.
“With this fight, I plan on finishing it. That's just how we train at my gym. We train to finish people no matter what. If I get on the ground, Mario Sperry taught me to control, damage and then submit the person, so that's what I'll do on the ground,” said Johnson.
“If I'm standing up, of course I'm going to put that pressure and as soon as you open up, I'm going to force you to give me an opening and then make a mistake, and as soon as you make a mistake, most likely you'll find out you're on your back counting sheep.”
In his fight this weekend, Johnson faces former heavyweight D.J. Linderman as the co-main event for the debut World Series of Fighting show in Las Vegas.
The chatter between the two fighters has remained fairly quiet, but Johnson did hear through the grapevine that Linderman plans on striking with him during their bout.
Easier said than done, according to Johnson.
“Everybody says that,” said Johnson. “If he wants to do that, that's fine with me. I hope he does. If he wants to do that, more power to him. If he wants to go to the ground and wrestle, more power to him.
“I don't see nothing D.J. can try to do that hasn't already been tried before.”
Listen to Monday's edition of MMAWeekly Radio for the full interview with Anthony Johnson