Two years after an abrupt retirement, former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is making a comeback The 35-year-old Johnson, who has added an incredible amount of muscle to his frame since stepping away following his UFC 210 title fight loss to Daniel Cormier, plans to return to active UFC competition in 2020 as a heavyweight. Johnson’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, broke the news to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto on Tuesday.
Johnson (22-6) has had one of the more unique MMA careers in terms of weight, considering he made his 2007 UFC debut as a welterweight and went on to compete as high as heavyweight in 2013 during a brief run with World Series of Fighting between UFC stops.
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Serving in recent months as a promotional brand ambassador for Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, Johnson remains under contract with UFC and posted a cryptic message on his Instagram page Tuesday which likely signaled his return to fight training.
The next step for Johnson, according to Abdelaziz, will be filing paperwork to rejoin the UFC’s drug testing program, which includes a six-month testing window with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) before a retired athlete can resume fighting. Abdelaziz told ESPN that Johnson is targeting the likes of Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem as possible opponents for his proposed March 2020 return.
Last year, Johnson briefly teased a return to the sport in an Instagram message which stated his hope of one day facing current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Johnson and Jones were originally supposed to meet for the 205-pound title at UFC 187 in 2015 before Jones was stripped of the title following a felony hit-and-run arrest. Cormier went on to defeat Johnson for the vacant title.
Over a professional career which spanned 11 years, Johnson recorded notable wins over the likes of Alexander Gustafsson, Ryan Bader, Glover Teixeira, Phil Davis, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Andrei Arlovski and Dan Hardy. Johnson built a name for himself, regardless of division, as one of the hardest punchers in UFC history.