Ex-UFC Title Challenger Anthony Johnson Headed to Bellator

Anthony Johnson UFC
Anthony Johnson Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Anthony Johnson is returning to the cage — but it will not be with the UFC.

The return of “Rumble” has been talked about throughout 2020. In fact, the idea of a Johnson (22-6) comeback was first floated in 2019, with heavyweight the destination. This past March, Johnson confirmed his plan to return to fighting to Cageside Press — but revealed that light heavyweight was the goal.

Now, per a report by ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, it will be Bellator MMA, not the UFC, that Johnson competes for.

According to that report, Rumble has agreed to terms with Scott Coker’s promotion, and is expected to sign the deal shortly. Sources have confirmed to Cageside Press that Johnson’s signing is imminent.

Scott Coker also posted his own nod to Rumble’s arrival:

Johnson retired following a loss to Daniel Cormier at UFC 210 in Buffalo in 2017. The fight was his second loss to Cormier, and his second with the UFC light heavyweight title on the line.

The Georgia-born fighter remained under contract with the UFC despite his retirement, and was expected to make his return there. However, according to Wednesday’s report, the two sides recently agreed to part ways. UFC President Dana White previously announced that up to 60 fighters would be cut by year’s end, and top middleweight Yoel Romero has already been shown the door — so perhaps Johnson’s exit shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Johnson first joined the UFC in 2007, competing as a welterweight. His first run with the company lasted until 2012, and saw him move to middleweight after struggling with a massive weight cut. After blowing weight for his middleweight debut with Vitor Belfort (Johnson came in at 197lbs), however, Johnson was shown the door.

A successful stint outside the UFC, which included a win over Andrei Arlovski at heavyweight, led to Rumble’s return in 2014. That led to five Performance of the Night bonuses, and the aforementioned title shots.

Anthony Johnson has not lost a fight to anyone but Daniel Cormier since the Belfort fight in 2012. He’s expected to make his Bellator MMA debut sometime in early 2021, and joins a division that includes Vadim Nemkov, Ryan Bader, Phil Davis, Lyoto Machida, Liam McGeary, Karl Albrektsson, Corey Anderson, and others.