Opening Round: Who is Ready for “Rumble”?

Last Saturday night’s scrap against Vitor Belfort at UFC 142: Aldo vs. Mendes was unquestionably the biggest fight of Anthony Johnson’s career; the type of bout where a win would have boosted his profile from mid-tier contender to legitimate title-threat. However, once things were said and done the spotlight on Johnson was indeed larger than it had been in some time but for all the wrong reasons.

Rather than receiving praise for a victory over a former champion or even a respectable performance “Rumble” found himself the butt of countless jokes based on his inability to make weight for the fight and was even released by the UFC moments after his opening round loss to Belfort. While he no doubt needs to do some soul-searching in terms of the type of future he hopes to have in MMA there’s little question Johnson will be back in a ring at some point in 2012. The question is, “Where?”

There are definitely a handful of realistic options for Johnson. Here are a few of them:

Bellator

Johnson would fit in nicely on the Bellator roster, as the company needs to add more quality middleweights and he could have an immediate impact in that regard. The organization would also provide him with exposure he might not get in other companies based on their broadcasting deal. While I don’t think he’d do well in their Season 6 tournament based on the potential of competing so frequently in relation to cutting weight, he could absolutely come in for a “super-fight” with Hector Lombard or an appearance or two against guys like Zelg Galesic or Jared Hess. Or, if Bellator can afford it, why not sign Nate Marquardt too and put together a UFC-quality match-up in the form of Marquardt vs. Johnson? Opportunities like that are fairly rare and, if financially feasible, it’s one that shouldn’t be looked over. Granted, “Nate the Great” may not want to move back up to 185 but it’s always possible, especially if he feels confident in terms of picking up a win.

Also, and I say this only half-kidding, Bellator is very familiar with their competitors missing weight. While he would obviously stymie his hopes of returning to the UFC by doing so outside of the Octagon at least he wouldn’t have to worry about being released.

ProElite

The reformed ProElite has put on a few decent shows thus far boasting UFC veterans in action including this weekend’s bout between Kendall Grove and Ikuhisa Minowa. Assuming Grove wins, a bout with Johnson would definitely sell tickets and is the kind of pairing the 27-year old could use to make his way back to the UFC based on marketability in addition to a decent probability of exiting the ring in victorious fashion.

BAMMA

I’m not sure how Johnson feels about fighting overseas but BAMMA is doing their best to establish themselves as the top British promotion out there and has some additional money to play with now that they’ve parted ways with Marquardt. The organization’s roster also has some half-decent duels for him in terms of Jim Wallhead or champ Tom Watson.

If you noticed the absence of Strikeforce it has to do with the amount of criticism Zuffa would receive by letting Johnson go from the UFC with a dark cloud over his head only to turn around and bring him on board again under a different banner. Don’t get me wrong. Strikeforce desperately needs 185ers. They just don’t need cast-offs who might jeopardize a big fight by coming in heavy.

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

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