Anthony Johnson, the former UFC light heavyweight standout who retired in the spring of 2017 at the age of 33, is reportedly planning to return to active competition early next year.
Citing Johnson’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, ESPN’s Brett Okamoto wrote that Johnson is set to file paperwork to reenter the UFC’s drug testing pool for a period of six months, as required by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for athletes coming out of retirement. This is in preparation for his planned March 2020 comeback, which could see him move up one weight class to the heavyweight division.
Talking about potential opponents in the heavyweight division, Abdelaziz told ESPN that Johnson, who turns 36 next March, is considering fights versus ranked opponents, including the likes of Junior Dos Santos and Alistair Overeem. Thanks to his victory over Daniel Cormier at UFC 241 earlier this month, Stipe Miocic is currently the division’s reigning two-time champion, though he wasn’t among the heavyweight fighters mentioned by Abdelaziz.
Although Abdelaziz stressed that Johnson may only be available to speak about his planned return “in the coming weeks,” ESPN noted that the MMA veteran had dropped some comeback hints of his own late last year, as he took to social media to say that he’ll only return to the octagon if reigning light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones moves up to the heavyweight division to challenge then-champion Cormier for the title.
“It’s a personal goal of mine to fight the very best of the best before I truly stop fighting,” Johnson said on Instagram, as quoted by ESPN. “Jon was always my motivation once I went to [light heavyweight]. Heavyweight would be insane if the 3 of us were at it again!”
Best known for his time in the light heavyweight division as a hard-hitting title contender, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson announced his retirement in April 2017, shortly after he lost a title fight against Cormier at UFC 210. He had a scheduled light heavyweight title bout against Jones at UFC 187 in May 2015, though as MMA Mania pointed out, Jones’ alleged involvement in a hit-and-run accident in Albuquerque, New Mexico, forced the UFC to pull him from the card and strip him of his championship.
According to MMA Mania, Johnson won’t be a first-time competitor as an MMA heavyweight if his comeback pushes forward as planned. In 2013, he faced Andrei Arlovski at a World Series of Fighting event, defeating the Belarusian fighter by points and breaking his jaw during their bout.