Anthony Johnson will have his opportunity to set the record straight, literally, when he faces off with Kevin Burns for the second time tonight during the live finale for the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter that will take place at The Pearl in Nevada.
The pairs previous meeting was marred in controversy after Burns repeatedly poked Johnson in the eye while throwing open handed strikes due to a hand injury. He was warned four separate times during the duration of the bout and in the third round, after Johnson was poked in the eye again and fell to the ground in pain, referee Steve Mazzagatti waved the contest off and declared Burns the victor via TKO. The decision was ruled to stand and Johnson still has that nasty loss on his record that he absolutely can’t wait to erase.
Burns wanted this rematch with the dangerous 6’2″ welterweight and Johnson couldn’t be happier to grant the request.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com had the opportunity to catch up with Johnson prior to tonights fight and speak with him about this grudge match of sorts, training with Cung Le and not making the cut on The Ultimate Fighter amongst other things.
Cory Brady: How are you feeling physically right now in the days leading up to your rematch with Kevin Burns?
Anthony Johnson: I feel great. I had a better camp this time. Every time I do a camp it keeps getting better and better. I’ve been working a lot of things with Cung Le in San Jose. I still basically have the same game plan as the last one because it wasn’t like he was stopping anything that I was doing.
Cory Brady: Has Kevin Burns open handed strikes been addressed for this one or is there the chance that he will accidentally shove his fingers in your eye again?
Anthony Johnson: Hopefully he had his hand fixed so he can fight me like he was supposed to, like a real man instead of poking me in the eye. I don’t even know why he was fighting to begin with if his hand was broke. He wanted a rematch so he’s going to get one. I have a loss on my record because of it but it’s whatever, after December 13th I’ll erase that loss and come out with the W.
Cory Brady: Does the fact that Kevin Burns never came close to submitting you in your previous bout play a part in your confidence if the fight ends up on the ground?
Anthony Johnson: I’m confident standing and on the ground with Kevin. To me he’s not a threat on the ground, period. He’s caught some good people in submissions but I’m not worried about his ground game and I’m not worried about his stand up either. I just have to go out there and do me. If he doesn’t poke me in the eye this time he’s going to get stopped a lot quicker.
Cory Brady: The last fight with Burns was a real barn burner up until the stoppage. Are you anticipating a war this time around as well?
Anthony Johnson: I just want to finish the fight. This time I know it’s going to be a better fight. I know that he’s coming and he’s going to know that I’m coming. Either he’s going to be on or I’m going to be on. Most of the time I’m on so if he’s not then it will be a bad thing for Kevin.
Cory Brady: How do you visualize this one ending?
Anthony Johnson: I’m going to knock his head off. Plain and simple. That’s just how I do it. If he didn’t want to get his head knocked off then he shouldn’t have gotten in the octagon with me. I hope his wife loves him because he’s going to be ugly when I get done with him.
Cory Brady: Now I know you tried out for season six of The Ultimate Fighter. What was the reason you were given for not making the final cut?
Anthony Johnson: I have no idea why I didn’t make the cut. I think it was because of my size and maybe they didn’t want another Gabe Ruediger situation. I’m a big 170 and I think they didn’t want to take that chance to make them look bad and me look bad and the sport look bad. I agree with their decision because honestly to stay in a house for that long and never know when you’re going to be called to fight, that’s tough. Especially for someone like me because I pack on a lot of muscle. I’m actually glad I didn’t make The Ultimate Fighter. It made me work harder to get what I wanted.
Cory Brady: Your frame and height make you one of the more physically dominating fighters at 170. Is the cut down to welterweight difficult for you or do you have it down to a science at this point?
Anthony Johnson: It’s never easy for somebody my size to get down to 170 pounds but I have it under control. I don’t worry about it and it doesn’t really affect my cardio like a lot of people think.
Cory Brady: I heard that you wrestled in college but never really formally studied striking before jumping into mma yet many consider you one of the more lethal strikers at 170. Is striking something that just seems to come naturally to you?
Anthony Johnson: I won a National Wrestling Championship in College but I never took up boxing or any kind of martial art. Then when I started training with Chute Boxe USA and some of the guys who had been in martial arts for a while were getting the best of me and I just got tired of getting punched in the mouth before I started swinging back and it just came to me. I just worked hard at what I wanted to learn and hard work pays off when you really go out there and do your best.
Cory Brady: Alright Anthony, thanks for taking this time with us. Are there any sponsors you would like to thank?
Anthony Johnson: Tapout, Cung Le, MMA Agents, Iron Heart Pitbulls and all of my friends and family.