|Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena, Connecticut, USA Date: Friday, 7 May|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC iPlayer from 22:30 BST, after the weigh-in from 18:00 BST on Thursday, 6 May|
Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson says he needs to be “more prepared than ever” for his light-heavyweight quarter-final bout with Jose Augusto at Bellator 258.
The American former UFC fighter, 37, is coming out of retirement to make his Bellator debut on Friday after four years away from mixed martial arts.
Brazilian Augusto, 29, stepped up to face Johnson after original opponent Yoel Romero pulled out with an eye injury last week.
The event will be shown on BBC iPlayer.
Johnson says he was “frustrated” when Romero got injured and thinks Augusto has “everything to gain and nothing to lose”.
He told BBC Sport: “I have a tonne of respect for Jose – he stepped up to fight when other people wouldn’t.”
Johnson, who has a professional record of 22 wins and six defeats, is widely regarded as one of the most intimidating fighters in UFC history.
His punching power helped him become the first person in the promotion to record four sub-minute knockout victories.
He plans to take that approach into Bellator and, despite his lengthy absence, has no fears of ring rust.
“There is no gameplan,” he said. “I make people adjust to what I do, and worry about what I do.
“I’m not worried about anything – I’ve been training for a year and a half.
“I know my opponent is a dangerous opponent and as long as I keep that mentality, I’ll be fine.”
‘I got fat, but I was happy’
Johnson announced his retirement from the sport following his defeat by Daniel Cormier at UFC 210 in 2017.
He says MMA, and life in general, had taken a toll on his wellbeing and he needed time away from the sport.
“After being a professional athlete for so many years and being in the gym since I was eight, I just needed a break,” said Johnson.
“Things weren’t working out the way I envisioned but now I’m in a much, much better place.”
Johnson will fight at 205lbs, but weighed as much as 280lbs during his time away.
He says watching Cormier fight Stipe Miocic in 2019 rekindled his interest in MMA and convinced him to train again.
He has lost 75lbs over 18 months in preparation for Friday’s fight.
“I got fat but I was happy,” he said. “That’s the only way I can put it.
“I had no desire to truly compete again, especially with how fat I was. But when I watched the Miocic and Cormier fight it lit a fire under my tail and made me want to compete again.
“I knew I could still be there, and I just got back at it. I made up my mind that night that I was going to fight again.”
‘Fighting at 170lbs was hell, but it made my career’
Friday’s fight will be Johnson’s 10th light-heavyweight contest in a row.
But he started his MMA career at welterweight, where he would weigh 170lbs going into fights. He says cutting weight before fights was tough, but being in that division helped his career flourish.
“Going down to 170 was hell,” said Johnson. “But if I hadn’t fought at 170, people wouldn’t know who Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson is.
“At 185 in the UFC they had Rich Franklin and Anderson Silva, and I couldn’t go to 205 – they had Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and all of those big guys.
“I just wasn’t mature enough, so if I hadn’t fought at 170 I probably wouldn’t have had the career I’ve had.”
Thursday, 6 May
18:00-18:30 – BBC iPlayer
Friday, 7 May
22:30-04:30 (main card from 02:00) – BBC iPlayer
Bellator 259 on Friday, 21 May and Bellator 260 on Friday, 11 June will also be available live on BBC iPlayer with further events to be announced in due course.
All times are in BST and are subject to change.
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