If 27-year old middleweight Anthony Johnson needed any additional motivation entering his bout at UFC 142: Aldo vs. Mendes against decorated veteran Vitor Belfort he apparently received it earlier this week when the organization debuted the event’s UFC Countdown special. As viewers may remember, one of the topics Johnson touched down during his segment with Belfort pertained to a message his grandfather had given him shortly before his death.
“In one of the clips, Vitor said that we’re gonna see a lion January 14,” Johnson explained in an interview with the UFC’s website. “Well, that’s the one thing my granddad told me right before he passed. The week he passed, he said to fight like I’m fighting a lion across the cage. When I heard that from Vitor’s mouth, I said thank you. I’ve been waiting on this lion a long time.”
While some may dismiss the situation as a strange coincidence, Johnson hadn’t even specifically planned a move up to middleweight until Belfort’s name came along.
“To me, any time would have been the right time. The UFC presented me with the chance to fight Vitor, so why not? You don’t really get many opportunities in life, and when you do, you need to take them.”
“I just saw it as a great opportunity for me, and right now, I’m fighting at 185, so my focus is there,” he continued. “(Welterweight) hasn’t really popped into my head at all. After the fight I don’t know what I’m gonna think, but right now, I haven’t thought about going back down or doing anything else except fighting.”
As far the as one of the biggest differences between entering the Octagon as a middleweight rather than at 170 pounds where Johnson’s previous pairings occurred?
“Yeah, I’m not hungry,” Johnson joked.
Fans can catch Johnson-Belfort in co-headlining action on Saturday night at UFC 142. The show is headlined by a featherweight title-defense by 145-pound champion Jose Aldo who will put his belt on the line against undefeated wrestler Chad Mendes.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC
MMATraining Take: I noticed the “lion” comments too during the Countdown special and thought it was definitely interesting. I’m not saying this fight was Johnson’s fate but it sure seems that way on the surface.