Johnson’s days as a welterweight appear to be long behind him,
and the fighter says he is much happier as a result.
“I was always upset. I hated everybody if I was dropping to 170
[pounds], especially on weigh-in day,” Johnson told Sherdog.com
after his knockout of D.J.
Linderman at the World Series of Fighting’s
debut event. “Everything happens for a reason. I don’t take
back anything that happened in my past, because if it hadn’t
happened back then, I wouldn’t be who I am right now. Moving to
[light heavyweight] was definitely the best decision that I’ve ever
made in my life.”
On Saturday night, Johnson competed in his fourth fight since
receiving his UFC release this past January, knocking out Bellator
Linderman at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las
Vegas. The setup for the finish was one not seen often, as Johnson
was the recipient of an accidental eye poke just moments prior. The
Blackzilian began blinking badly, looking to referee Herb Dean for
help. Dean, however, did not see the accidental foul and was unable
to step in.
“Nothing was going through my mind except that [Linderman] poked me
in the eye,” Johnson said of the sequence. “I looked over at Herb,
and Herb said he didn’t see it. I respect him. He’s the best ref in
the world. If he didn’t see it, then I respect that, because they
don’t see everything.”
Next, Johnson says he heard Linderman’s corner urge the Californian
to attack while “Rumble” gathered his wits. The advice proved less
than helpful, as Johnson planted his back foot and countered
Linderman with a straight right hand that instantly turned out his
lights, causing him to fall limp, face-first on the canvas.
“I heard D.J.’s corner say, ‘Go get him,’ because they thought it
was an opportunity. He just left himself open. I trained to step
backward and punch at the same time, kind of like how Chuck
Liddell used to do. We train that day in and day out,” said
Johnson. “Usually when you knock somebody out, you don’t feel it.
You just happen to hit them in the right spot, and that’s exactly
what happened. I didn’t think he was going to fall the way he did.
I don’t think he’s ever been knocked out or stopped like that. I
think I was the first, so I’m proud of myself.”
Even after snatching the highlight reel finish, Johnson still
complimented his opponent’s toughness during a first round in which
Linderman ate several stiff shots from the hard-hitting Johnson,
including a snapping high kick.
“[Linderman] is tough as nails. He took a couple of hits, and
obviously he took a kick straight to the dome, and he didn’t drop.
It surprised me,” said Johnson. “That guy has a hard noggin. He’s
still a warrior, and I have nothing but respect for him.”