The hope is that right around the same time Anthony Johnson feels 100 percent comfortable as a light heavyweight, UFC president Dana White will feel 100 percent ready to forgive his past.
Speaking to ESPN.com, Glenn Robinson, Johnson’s manager, said he and Johnson’s team were generally happy with the result of his 205-pound debut against Esteves Jones at a Titan Fighting Championships event last week in Kansas City, Kan.
Johnson (12-4), who has competed the majority of his career as a welterweight in the UFC, took care of Jones via TKO in the second round of their main event bout.
As is the case with almost every elite fighter these days, Johnson would eventually like to test his skills at light heavyweight against the UFC roster. Once he feels ready, Robinson says he’ll push for that.
“When he’s comfortable, he’s very hard to beat,” Robinson said. “He spars with Alistair [Overeem] and Rashad [Evans]; they all say he’s very tough.
“When he feels he’s comfortable with the weight, that’s when we’ll make the call.”
Johnson, of course, was released by the UFC following a loss to Vitor Belfort at UFC 142 in Brazil. Despite moving up a weight class, Johnson missed weight by 11 pounds, forcing a unique situation in which he weighed-in again the following day.
White was understandably furious at Johnson for putting the bout, the card’s co-main event, in jeopardy. Robinson believes though, White will be open to resigning Johnson once he restores his image as a light heavyweight.
“Dana was mad over what happened,” Robinson said. “They would have lost a lot of money if they had to cancel that particular match. Dana is a very fair person, though, and he’s pretty reasonable once you prove yourself to him.”
Johnson’s reputation, admittedly, isn’t going to be cleaned overnight. At the weigh-ins for his recent fight at TFC 24, Johnson arrived 20 minutes after he was expected, which immediately sparked speculation he was having a difficult cut.
After making weight, Johnson dropped to the floor to do pushups. A photo was taken of him lying on the ground. Shortly after, Twitter exploded with rumors he not only had trouble making weight but was suffering kidney failure.
“Rumors are always going to circulate after you’ve had problems,” Robinson said. “Someone snapped a picture of him in a compromising position, next thing you know, people are saying he has kidney failure.
“When he won that night, though, the comments on Twitter were very positive. He just has to go out there and win at 205 and eventually the past will be the past.”
Robinson and the rest of Johnson’s team still harbor high expectations for the 28-year-old because of the immense talent he brings with him to the cage.
He’ll forfeit the size advantage he has enjoyed throughout his career at 205 pounds, but the tradeoff is he’ll spend more time working on improving and less time simply losing weight.
The two major focuses ahead are getting Johnson immersed in a strength and conditioning program and improving his cardio on the floor -- he was visibly tired as early as the first round against Belfort after working several early takedowns.
By the time those two issues are addressed, hopefully White and the UFC (or, Robinson says, Strikeforce) are willing to give Johnson another shot.
“This is the right move for him,” Robinson said. “He’s had a long history of extreme weight cutting and his body couldn’t handle it anymore.
“Right now, it’s fight by fight with Titan. We’d be open to [Strikeforce or the UFC], but right now that’s so far in the future. We take on Jake Rosholt in September. Anthony just likes to fight.”