Los Angeles, CA — Anthony Johnson is preparing to go to war against light heavyweight champ Vadim Nemkov later this year.
“Rumble” is also extremely happy that the light heavyweight grand prix semifinal finally has a date. That would be October 16 in Phoenix, Arizona. Both of the tournament’s semifinal fights will take place that night; Ryan Bader vs. Corey Anderson is on the other side of the bracket.
“Now that I have [a date], it gives me something to focus on. I’m super excited,” Johnson (23-6) told media outlets including Cageside Press during a recent media day in Los Angeles. “Since I signed with Bellator, I’ve wanted to compete against [Vadim] Nemkov. He’s an animal. And now I have the opportunity, so I just have to shoot for the stars and see what happens.”
As to what makes the match-up with Russia’s Nemkov so appealing, besides the title being on the line, “he’s an athlete. He’s a fighter. I don’t see any holes in his game,” stated Johnson. “He’s a complete stand-up fighter, he’s a great grappler. I’ve faced the best of the best, and I feel like this is going to be one of those fights too.”
Nemkov is also part of Team Fedor, and will have Fedor Emelianenko in his corner. “That alone is a danger, just having that guy in your corner. But my corner’s legit too,” noted Johnson.
Johnson is coming off a win in his Bellator debut that saw him faced with real adversity when dropped by Jose Augusto. It could have been a shock upset in the quarterfinal fight, but “Rumble” persevered and prevailed.
“I’ve never been dropped, and this man dropped me. Had me nervous for a second,” Johnson admitted. “Thank god he didn’t hit me too hard, and had enough time to collect my thoughts and get back in it.”
“I don’t want to get hit like that, but I have a feeling this next fight, it’s going to be a war,” he later added, turning the focus back to Nemkov. “I’m mentally prepared for it.”
One thing Johnson didn’t want to focus on was his arrest following Bellator 258 back in May. “We’re not talking about that, so why the hell are you even bringing that up?” he questioned, when the run-in with the law was mentioned. “Thank you, next question.”
Should “Rumble” Johnson get past Vadim Nemkov this October, there’s a belief held by many that he’ll have overcome the hardest part of the grand prix. That’s a misconception according to Johnson himself, who noted that the “hard work is never done.”
“If I were to get the belt, if I were to face [Ryan] Bader again, or Corey [Anderson], styles make fights,” Johnson observed. “Even though I beat Bader, he’s improved a ton. Corey is Corey, he’s a grinder, and just stays in your face. I have to adjust, and I can’t take those guys for granted.”
Watch the full Bellator media day appearance from Anthony Johnson above.