Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson: I only want to fight for the title
If light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who faces felony hit-and-run charges in New Mexico, ends up not being able to defend his title against Anthony Johnson on May 23 at UFC 187 as scheduled, the challenger is not particularly interested in a non-title replacement bout. "Rumble" appeared on UFC Tonight, Monday, and said that he will wait for a title fight as long as he needs to.
"I only want to fight for the title," Johnson said.
"I feel like I’ve worked my way up to being the No. 1 contender, and I plan on staying that way. Unless it’s for a title, I don’t want to be like Vitor [Belfort] and wait a year. But if I have to, I will."
Belfort was granted a shot at middleweight champion Chris Weidman after his Nov. 2013 win over Dan Henderson but has still yet to fight for the belt because of a combination of his own performance-enhancing drug test failure, opting out of the fight, and injuries to the champion. The two are now also set to fight at UFC 187 in Las Vegas. Johnson’s last loss was, in fact, to Belfort, over three years ago.
Since that submission loss in Brazil, Johnson has won nine straight fights at heavyweight and light heavyweight, including three straight since returning to the UFC in 2014.
The Blackzilian’s most recent win was a brutal first-round KO over former title challenger Alexander Gustafsson in January. Monday morning, Johnson posted on his Twitter and Facebook accounts that he was staying focused amidst all the drama and uncertainty surrounding Jones.
"Despite all the rumors you have been hearing, they dont stop me or keep me from being focused.. Staying on my grind," he wrote.
Appearing on UFC Tonight later in the day, Johnson specified that, in his mind, there is nothing different. "Nothing’s changed," he said.
"I’m still training hard, staying focused, straying on the grind. Like I said, whoever they give me, whatever they throw my way, I’ll be ready no matter what."
Though we can’t be sure, that statement, paired with the earlier one would seem to suggest that Johnson is open to fighting someone other than Jones, if need be, but he believes that if the champion is substituted, the fight should still be for a title. The UFC has not released a statement on whether Jones will be suspended or stripped of his belt, or if there is a chance that Johnson could fight for an interim belt against someone other than "Bones," yet.
Indeed, it would appear to be a little early for that. On the other hand, the promotion does not have a great deal of time to figure out if changes need to be made to the UFC 187 card, now less than a month away.
Whatever happens, it sounds as though Johnson will be ready.