Anthony Johnson on Ryan Bader: Beat a top 3 opponent then call for a title shot

Anthony Johnson understands Ryan Bader’s frustration while winning five fights in a row and still sitting on the sidelines waiting for a title shot.

Bader seemed to be a lock to face new champion Daniel Cormier after he defeated Johnson last May, but the UFC opted to go with Alexander Gustafsson instead. Now with the return of former champion Jon Jones to the UFC, Bader is matched up with Johnson rather than getting a title shot.

Johnson is sympathetic to what Bader is suffering through, but at the same time he believes the former "Ultimate Fighter" winner needs a marquee name to add to his resume if he wants a title shot.

"I respect Bader. He’s on a five-fight win streak, and I came into the UFC on a three-fight win streak and I got a title shot by my fourth fight so I understand where he’s coming from," Johnson told FOX Sports. "He feels like he should be the next in line for a title shot, but at the same time, I think you have to beat somebody in the top three to say something like that.

He feels like he should be the next in line for a title shot, but at the same time, I think you have to beat somebody in the top three to say something like that. 

— Anthony Johnson

"I fought Alexander (Gustafsson) and he was No. 2 and I beat him to make sure I was legit to be a title contender. I feel everybody should go that route."

Most are looking at this upcoming fight between Johnson and Bader as the de facto No. 1 contender’s bout, with the winner moving on to face whoever comes out on top in the matchup between Jones and Cormier later this year.

As much as Johnson would love another shot at the belt, part of the reason he’s had so much success lately is because he’s no longer fixated on what’s beyond his reach.

Johnson prefers to focus on what’s right in front of him and not get distracted by thoughts of a title fight or what comes next with a victory. He has to win first and then Johnson will contemplate the future.

"Whenever it’s time to fight for the belt, that’s what happens," Johnson said. "Right now, I’m just seeing this as a fight. I’m not seeing it as ‘oh this is a fight to take me to the next level’. That’s no disrespect to Bader. I’ve just learned to see fights as fights and not try to make one fight more important than the next.

"Because all fights I take are important to me. I don’t look over my opponents and don’t think about what could happen after them. I just think about what’s going to happen on fight night."

Johnson believes his laid back demeanor even when talking about potential title shots is a big part of what makes his so dangerous lately.

During his early days in the UFC while he was competing as a welterweight, Johnson always felt like he had something to prove and he attempted to take it out on his opponents.

That strategy worked for him at times, but it also cost him with some lackluster performances while he put far too much pressure on himself going into certain fights. Now Johnson remains calm, cool and collected before every matchup and now he’s ranked as one of the best light heavyweights on the planet.

"I just try to make sure I stay true to myself. To do the best that I can no matter what and not take things too serious," Johnson said. "Because when you do that, you lose who you are and you lose focus. I just kind of go with the flow."

As far as his fight goes, Johnson is ready to test himself against another elite fighter at 205 pounds but he’s not stressing out too much about matching his striking with Bader or exchanging takedowns with the former NCAA All-American.

Johnson is confident that no matter what strategy Bader uses, he can counter and then apply his own offense in return. In other words, Johnson knows he can beat Bader on the feet or on the ground and that’s not trash talking.

That’s just Johnson’s self-belief showing through.

"That’s the part of being confident," Johnson said. "I feel I can win the fight no matter what. I definitely feel I can win this fight any way possible."