Tony Johnson (8-2) has been a die hard athlete from the jump. After playing arena football, Tony Johnson returned to his wrestling roots and ultimately found his professional path in MMA. He has captured the King of the Cage heavyweight title and racked up impressive victories over Derrick Lewis and former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia. Now, Tony takes on Rusfighter heavyweight Alexander Volkov in the Bellator 136 main card.
SF: Interestingly, you became acquainted with AKA after fighting Daniel Cormier in King of the Cage. What made you want to make AKA your home?
Johnson: After the fight I called Daniel and said listen, I’m not where I need to be at in my training. I needed a team that was going to push me. I asked him for a tryout and he said yeah come out here and we’ll get you a tryout. He said I can’t say we’ll put you on, you got a couple tests you have to pass. Basically, that test was Cain Velasquez and they said let’s see how much heart you have. It was horrible but I stuck it out and they thought I had heart and thought I had potential, so they signed me.
AKA treats you like family and it’s a brotherhood honestly. Everyone’s pushing everyone to get better because when you have AKA on your banner you aren’t just representing yourself, you’re representing your team and everybody else. It’s a brotherhood. When you have positive energy around you it makes you want to do better, makes you want to strive, makes you want to do better for your brothers and for yourself. Having a team like that means the world honestly.
SF: Coming from a collegiate wrestling background, do you think that team MMA franchise competition could be successful?
Johnson: I believe so. I think that’d be fun to watch honestly. That’d keep the fighters busy. Here’s the thing, MMA is a game. Some of these guys don’t want to show everything they have to their training partners because they may fight each other down the road. That can hold back MMA. I think that’d be really awesome actually.
SF: Similarly, do you think the point system of wrestling could serve as base to improve MMA judging?
Johnson: See, I’m not sure because every commission is different. I think they need to have a universal system to say this move is worth this amount of points, this takedown is worth this amount of points etc. I think maybe a wrestling system would work better, it may be a concept to look into. Like I said, the commissions are different and they give heavier consideration to different kinds of moves. I think that will help a lot of the confusion that goes on in MMA.
Also, MMA is so new. I think there’s going to be so much more development. Something like boxing has so much history, MMA is going to have a history too but we have to get there first.
SF: What was it like to compete in Asia in One FC? Do you see yourself competing more internationally or do you prefer competing more in the U.S.?
Johnson: I plan on being with Bellator for a long time so if they want me to compete internationally, I’ll go anywhere they want me to. But fighting in Asia was cool–you get to see different cultures and definitely appreciate and respect what you have at home a lot more. When I was over in the Philippines, they were the nicest people in the world and they were only making $4 a day. It makes you respect what you have a lot more.
But cutting weight and flying internationally sucks. I fought Chris Lokteff with 10 days notice and had to cut 30 pounds on a flight to Malaysia that was 24 hours long. So just that alone was not ideal.
SF: What is your plan of attack against the tall and lanky Alexander Volkov?
Johnson: The thing is, he’s so long that I can’t beat his range so I’m gonna be in his face. The thing about myself is, I’m big, strong and powerful. I beat Tim Sylvia and he was just as tall as Volkov. I train with the best jiu-jitsu guys and the best wrestlers in the world so I’m just ready, I’m ready for anything.
I’ve also trained with Deontay Wilder, that helped me tremendously. It gave me the confidence to work on my range and footwork. He’s one of the best boxers in the world and that gave me the confidence to say hey, I can hang with this guy.
SF: Anything else you’d like to include for our readers?
Johnson: I’d like to thank my sponsors Made Fitness, Clinch Gear and everyone at AKA. I want to be a commodity to them and I want to be in this business a long time. I’m ready.
Bellator 136 takes place on Friday April 10th at 9/8C on Spike. See Tony Johnson touch gloves with Alexander Volkov in the Bellator cage.