The UFC didn’t waste any time getting Anthony Johnson a big fight.
"Rumble" was reinstated from his suspension last week when a civil order of protection against him was dropped by his ex-girlfriend. On Wednesday, UFC president Dana White announced on Instagram that Johnson will be taking on Alexander Gustafsson in the main event of UFC Fight Night on FOX on Jan. 24 in Sweden.
The Tele2 Arena in Stockholm holds more than 30,000 fans. This will be just the second major stadium event in UFC history and the first in Europe. Gustafsson is a significant draw in his home country.
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“This is going to be an epic event,” Gustafsson said in a UFC release. “I want more than 30,000 fans to come and witness me win on Jan. 24. Then I’m going to go and get the title. My journey back to the top starts now. ”
This was the light heavyweight title eliminator the UFC wanted to put on FOX in December, but Johnson was suspended pending domestic violence charges. A mother of two of Johnson’s children claimed she received threatening texts from the fighter in September and told police she suffered physical abuse from him in 2012, according to a Bloody Elbow report. The UFC suspended Johnson and conducted an investigation into the matter. With the case dropped, the UFC has brought "Rumble" back into the fold.
Johnson (18-4) has been the hottest fighter in the division since returning to the UFC in the spring. He dominated Phil Davis at UFC 172 in April and knocked out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in 44 seconds on FOX in July. Johnson, 30, originally competed at welterweight in the UFC, but could not make the weight consistently and was cut by the organization. He has definitely found his true home at 205 pounds and looks like a real force at that weight class.
“This fight might be on his home turf, but I’m ready to go over to Sweden and prove that I’m the next in the line for the UFC light heavyweight title,” Johnson said in the UFC’s release. “I’m not intimidated by fighting in front of Alex’s hometown fans. I’m going to go in there and look for the knockout like I do in all of my fights. I can’t wait for this.”
Gustafsson (16-2) is who many feel is the rightful No. 1 contender to the light heavyweight title after pushing champion Jon Jones to the brink in September 2013. He was supposed to fight Jones at UFC 178 this September, but an injury sidetracked him. Daniel Cormier will now take his place at UFC 182 on Jan. 3 in Las Vegas. Gustafsson, 27, will need to win this fight against Johnson to return to his spot as the top contender. The Swede is coming off a second-round knockout win over Jimi Manuwa in March.
UFC Fight Night on FOX in Stockholm has no other bouts booked yet. The UFC’s first stadium show was UFC 129 on April 30, 2011, at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. Georges St-Pierre successfully retained his UFC welterweight title in the main event in front of more than 55,000 fans. It’s the largest live crowd in UFC history.