UFC light heavyweight Anthony Johnson says he will never again cut weight like he did early in his career. Just thinking about it can make him physically ill.
Johnson (16-4) is scheduled to face Phil Davis in a high-profile 205-pound matchup at UFC 172 in Baltimore on Saturday. It will mark Johnson’s first appearance in the Octagon since the UFC cut him in January 2012 for repeatedly missing weight.
He missed the 171-pound limit twice as a welterweight in 2007 and 2009. In what was supposed to be his middleweight debut at UFC 142, Johnson weighed in heavy again, which put a co-main event fight against Vitor Belfort in jeopardy.
After he missed weight for another middleweight bout outside the UFC, Johnson made a permanent move to light heavyweight. And no matter what happens from here on out, that’s where he’ll stay.
“If anybody brings up 186 pounds to me, I look at them cross-eyed,” Johnson said. “Honestly, I start feeling sick when I get to 204 pounds. My body won’t allow it. It’s most likely a mental thing but I don’t even want to think about it.”
Although Johnson says he’s finished with hard weight cutting personally, he does hold opinions on recent suggestions for reform on the process.
Last month, the Association of Ringside Physicians issued a statement on potential weigh-cutting reform in combat sports. One suggestion was to establish a “lowest allowed fighting weight for competitors through body composition and hydration assessment.”
Despite an admission that he probably “knocked on death’s door” several times while cutting to 171 pounds, Johnson is not in favor of a regulatory body telling a professional athlete what weight class he or she can compete in.
“I think that’s just insane,” Johnson said. “Nobody can tell you what you can and can’t do.
“You know your body and if you believe you can reach the weight class you’re set [to fight in], then do it. I don’t think anybody should put limits on what you believe you can do.”
Other advocates for weight-cutting reform have suggested same-day weigh-ins, which would theoretically force athletes to compete closer to their natural weight. The major draw back would be the potential of more dehydrated fighters in the cage, which makes the brain more susceptible to damage.
Still, others have called for weigh-ins to occur well ahead of a bout, which would add more time between a dehydrated phase at weigh-in and an actual fight.
In addition to his stance on the ARP suggestions, Johnson is against same-day weigh-ins, but ultimately says he doesn’t have a say in the matter, as he’s committed to 205 pounds.
As he puts it, “I don’t think losing too much weight is healthy at all, but look who’s talking. I used to lose 40-to-50 pounds.”
As far as how the move up in weight suits him, Johnson says he feels at home in the weight class, even though his fight against Davis will be a major step up in competition. He’s 3-0 currently as a light heavyweight.
“I’m confident I’ve already figured out fighting at this weight,” Johnson said. “To me, weight is weight. It doesn’t matter to me at this point. Just me who you give me and I’ll see what they’ve got.”
Johnson and Davis have only interacted once, according to Johnson -- when the two shared a locker room at a UFC Fight Night event in March 2011 in Seattle. Johnson was fighting at welterweight at the time, but wasn’t dwarfed by Davis’ size.
“When I was fighting at 170 I thought everybody was big,” Johnson said. “At the same time, I don’t see guys as being too big for me as long as I can see them eye-to-eye. I thought he was big, but he wasn’t too big.
“There was only one person that was just too big for me and that was Andrei Arlovski [Johnson defeated Arlovski via decision last year as a heavyweight]. He was too big.”