How quickly fortunes can change in the fight business. Just a few bouts ago, Brazilian light heavyweight Johnny Walker (17-5) was looked at as a title contender. A fighter who some saw as a possible threat to then-champ Jon Jones.
Then came a pair of back-to-back losses, at the hands of Corey Anderson and Nikita Krylov, that halted Walker’s meteoric rise. Just as suddenly as he’d hit the limelight, Walker was thrown back down the ladder.
“From my last two losses, I learned a lot,” Walker said at the UFC Vegas 11 media day this week. On Saturday, he’ll be looking to bounce back against Ryan Spann, on what is frankly a stacked Fight Night card. “You have to keep your mental health good. You have to be present in the fight, you cannot think about any other problems. Not just on the fights, you have to be very focused, your mind has to be really focused the whole camp in training, the fight week, the fight day. You can’t relax.”
Although he didn’t elaborate, it’s clear that Walker’s mind was elsewhere during those past fights. But there were other lessons learned as well. “You need to have good people around you that you can trust,” he added.
Walker now feels he has the right people around him. He’s changed his training, after tiring in his last fight, specifically muscle fatigue. He’s changed his training camp, heading overseas to join SBG Ireland, working under John Kavanagh. And no, for those wondering, he hasn’t seen Conor McGregor in the gym yet.
He does appear to have found a home, however. Besides which, Walker’s girlfriend is Irish. “I would like to move with my girlfriend, maybe next year,” he revealed Wednesday. The pair want to find a place where she can work, and he can train. SBG Ireland appears perfect in that regard, although travel restrictions from the coronavirus have put that on hold.
Speaking of the virus, Walker was hit with it earlier in the summer. “For me it was okay. I just lost my sense of smell, and my nose got a little bit blocked,” he explained. His girlfriend and her family had to be tested as a result, but luckily, none contracted the virus. “I don’t feel nothing else. No other symptoms. It was a really, really quick recovery.”
UFC Vegas 11 takes place this Saturday, September 19 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event airs live on ESPN+ (TSN in Canada).