22 March 2017 | 8:40 pm
Henri Hooft, head trainer for No. 1-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight contender Anthony Johnson, believes “Rumble” has put in all of the blood, sweat and tears to become the next 205-pound title holder.
“He deserves (the title),” Hooft said of Johnson during a recent interview with UFC.com. “He put a lot of effort in, he always shows up and he’s a real student of the game and a real good guy. He will be a good champion too and will be representing the UFC very well. But for me, it’s also personal. For so many years working together, we became close, and it’s always nice to have a belt.”
Johnson came up short in his first attempt to win a UFC title against Daniel Cormier for the vacant 205-pound strap at UFC 187 back in 2015. Fast forward several years — and three violent wins later — and Johnson finds himself on the verge of another championship bout against “DC,” which is set to go down at UFC 210 in Buffalo, N.Y., on April 8, 2017.
To hear Hooft tell it, Johnson is more prepared now for a title fight than he was in their first encounter.
“The last fight, as AJ explained a bit, there was a lot of stuff going on,” Hooft said. “The main event, first time for the title, and he also rushed in a little bit when he had DC hurt because DC is not a guy you knock out like that,” added Henri. [Cormier] fought all these heavyweights and is a tough guy who never got knocked out, so it was all a bit of a learning lesson, and hopefully this time around he’ll be a little bit more patient and will be better.”
Still, while both Cormier and Johnson have looked impressive and have improved since their first fight, Hooft says the game plans likely won’t change for either fighter this time around. That’s why he feels it will come down to who wants it most.
“Both of these guys are a long time in the game, and they also know how each other fights. There’s no real secret. Anthony, of course, is working on some stuff, but he won’t be an Olympic wrestler in a couple of months and DC won’t be a striker like Anthony. So it’s who wants it more the second time around.”
For his part, Cormier has declared he would stand toe-to-toe against perhaps the hardest hitter in all of mixed martial arts (MMA). And while “DC” survived one of “Rumble’s” powerful punches the first bout, would it really behoove him to stand with him in the rematch?
We shall see.