Anthony Johnson’s return to MMA has taken a twist.
For months now, “Rumble” has been hinting at a return to the sport but nothing has come to fruition. However, on Wednesday, ESPN’s Ariel Helwani revealed Johnson has parted ways with the UFC and signed with Bellator.
Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is headed to Bellator.
“Rumble” has agreed to terms with Bellator, per sources. He hasn’t signed his deal just yet, but he’s expected to imminently, sources say.
Johnson recently mutually parted ways with the UFC, according to sources.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) December 9, 2020
Bellator president, Scott Coker also confirmed the news on his Twitter with a simple tweet.
— Scott Coker (@ScottCoker) December 9, 2020
According to Helwani, Johnson will compete at light heavyweight and make his Bellator debut sometime in the first half of 2021.
Why Johnson decided to return to the sport at 36-years-old should not be surprising. He has hinted at a return for months and over the summer revealed he just missed the sport and wanted to come back.
“Honestly, I missed the sport,” Johnson said during a BKFC press conference. “I missed competing. So I know at one point I was against guys coming back from retirement. You usually see them getting mopped up. B.J. Penn came back got mopped. I’ve seen everybody that came out of retirement get mopped up.”
Rumble has not fought since April of 2017 when he was submitted by Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title. Before that, he knocked out Glover Teixeira, Ryan Bader, and Jimi Manuwa. Anthony Johnson is currently 22-6 and also holds notable wins over Alexander Gustafsson, Dan Hardy, and Andrei Arlovski.
Who and when Anthony Johnson will make his Bellator debut against is uncertain at this point. However, given he will fight at 205-pounds there are several options. He could get an immediate title shot against Vadim Nemkov, rematch Bader, or even fight Corey Anderson to determine the next title challenger after Phil Davis.
Regardless, there are a ton of intriguing options for Anthony Johnson to make his Bellator debut against. Many fans are eager to see him compete again after three years away.