After splitting his two fights in 2017, heavyweight Tim Johnson was looking to kick off 2018 on a better note when he faced Marcelo Golm at UFC Fight Night 125 in February.
Though he feels his performance wasn’t as explosive as it could have been, Johnson was able to pick up a unanimous decision win over Golm and start of his year on the right foot.
“The Marcelo fight was pretty conservative,” Johnson told MMAWeekly.com. “We had a game plan going into that one knowing it was the last fight of a contract, and I could open up and be exciting on my next fight, but let’s get a win here – that was the most important part.”
Upon finishing his contract with the UFC, Johnson signed with Bellator. It’s a move he’s excited to make and to see where it can take him.
“The biggest thing with switching over here is getting an opportunity to fight a guy like Cheick Kongo, and that’s upped my excitement level,” said Johnson. “It’s definitely a good opportunity.
“It’s like moving to a new city or town. You want to make a good impression. You want to put your best foot forward with everything. It’s a new company and a new fan base to an extent. On the other side of things, it’s still fighting. It’s like you’re fighting on any regional level or world stage.”
On Saturday in Long Island, New York, Johnson (12-4) will make his promotional debut against Kongo (28-10-2) in a main card heavyweight bout at Bellator 208.
“Matching up with Kongo, I’m not going to surprise him with anything,” Johnson said. “He’s seen everything you can throw at him once, if not multiple times.
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“To win the fight it’s either going to be to find a takedown somewhere and get him with the ground-and-pound or out-clinch him. We can’t force takedowns because he does have pretty good takedown defense, and you don’t want to waste energy trying to get takedowns. I have to be ready for whatever opportunity presents itself.”
Should Johnson win, he could possibly be considered as a replacement for the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, or get an opportunity to face someone out of the tournament. Either way, his focus is on getting past Kongo first.
“It all depends on if I win or lose,” said Johnson. “If I lose, I can’t be affiliated with the tournament or the tournament competitors so much. If I get a win, it will throw me somewhere in the mix. We’ll have to reassess that question after (the Kongo bout).
“I don’t want to think too much of the future after this fight. As any athlete knows, that’s a trap to start thinking about stuff beyond what’s in front of you.”