Anthony Johnson: Overeem never a Blackzilian, he was Team Alistair
FEB 05, 2014 12:54p ET
When Anthony Johnson traveled to New Jersey last weekend he was there in support of his teammate and friend Abel Trujillo, who was fighting Jamie Varner on the main card of UFC 169. Little did he know by the end of the weekend he would be re-signed to the UFC as well and matched up against the No. 4 light heavyweight fighter in the world.
Johnson is no stranger to the Octagon because he fought there for several years, primarily competing as welterweight who struggled mightily to cut down to the 170-pound limit. When he was able to shed the pounds, Johnson was a force to be reckoned with but his constant battle against his weight never allowed him to perform up to his full abilities.
Following one fight weight cutting disaster when he went up to middleweight for a single fight, Johnson was released from the promotion.
Since that time, Johnson has moved up to light heavyweight where he no longer struggles with dropping pounds and can instead focus on just getting better in the gym instead of agonizing and obsessing about losing weight before a bout. He's gone 6-0 in his last six fights and even dabbled at heavyweight where he defeated former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski.
His recent record and free agency status after completing his recent contract with World Series of Fighting made him a popular name for any promotion looking to land his services, but it only took one meeting between UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and Johnson's manager Glenn Robinson to know where 'Rumble' should call home again.
"I went out to New Jersey for the last UFC to support my teammate Abel Trujillo and just show my face in the crowd, and my manager met with Joe Silva during breakfast," Johnson shared on the MMA Roasted Podcast. "Joe Silva and my manager, they were eating at another table on the other side of the restaurant and me and my coaches and Abel were eating on the opposite side and Glenn (Robinson) called me and said come over here and I went over there and as soon as I sat down he looked at me and said 'congratulations, welcome back to the UFC' and so I looked over at Joe Silva, and Joe Silva had this big ass smile on his face and stuck his hand out and I shook his hand and that was basically it."
With a handshake agreement in place, Johnson was back in the UFC, but now came the job of finding him the right opponent for his return to action. It didn't take long for Silva to offer up former NCAA champion and top five ranked light heavyweight Phil Davis as a name, and he then gave Johnson the date of April 26 as the co-main event for UFC 172 in Baltimore.
“He's not a Blackzilian, he ain't no Blackzilian. Don't even put him in that category. He's Team Alistair, that's it.”
Johnson didn't hesitate for one second to accept the fight.
"They brought up Phil Davis and I'm like I'll fight whoever it is, I don't care. It's just another human being in front of me. He does the same thing I do and I know I do it better," Johnson said. "So put me up against whoever you want to put me up against."
Johnson won't start getting ready for his fight for a few more weeks, but he's still training in camp helping the man he calls his 'big brother' Rashad Evans get ready for his bout against Daniel Cormier at UFC 170. He's also wrestling and working out with Vitor Belfort, who he actually faced in his final UFC fight before being released by the promotion. Now the two fighters are teammates and work well to help each other get ready for their shared competition.
One person who won't be there to help Johnson get ready, and apparently was never really around to help him prepare for fights is UFC heavyweight Alistair Overeem. The former Strikeforce champion recently exited the Blackzilian team based out of Florida in favor of training in Thailand as he got ready for his bout against Frank Mir at UFC 169.
While Overeem never stated that there was any bad blood between him and the Blackzilians when he left, Johnson didn't seem to mind very much that he was gone.
"I ain't got not beef with him, I just don't care about him," Johnson said candidly. "He's not a Blackzilian, he ain't no Blackzilian. Don't even put him in that category. He's Team Alistair, that's it."
In other words don't expect Overeem to get an invite to help Johnson as he gets ready to face Davis in April. Outside of that one bump in the road, however, Johnson and his teammates at the Blackzilians are riding a wave of success right now that he hopes carries into UFC 170 for Evans and then directly into UFC 172 when he makes his long awaited return to the Octagon to face Davis.
With a single win, Johnson will certainly put his name into title contention on his first day back in the UFC and following the first message he got from Joe Silva upon his return, he would love the next words to be 'how would you like a shot at the title?'.