Tim Johnson could’ve waited for a title shot against Ryan Bader.
After Johnson earned a split decision win over Cheick Kongo last October he cemented himself as the number one contender at heavyweight. The plan was for the UFC veteran to face Ryan Bader in the first quarter of 2021 for the heavyweight title. Yet, Bader went into the light heavyweight grand prix and instead of waiting, Johnson will face Valentin Moldavsky in the main event of Bellator 261 for the interim heavyweight title.
“It was kind of a push because Bader and I were talking on Instagram and we were planning to do a title fight in February, March,” Johnson said on Just Scrap Radio on BJPENN.com. “Then, he got approached for the light heavyweight tournament. It left the top of the roster in limbo so I pushed for it. I could’ve hung around until after the tournament to get a title shot but I’m not a hang around type of dude, let’s get fighting and whatever happens, happens.”
When Johnson started to ask Bellator matchmakers about a potential interim title fight he knew Moldavsky would likely be his opponent. The Russian is undefeated in Bellator and coming off a decision win over Roy Nelson. Yet, for Johnson, he’s intrigued by the style matchup as they have very similar styles.
“It’s not very often where I come across a fighter whose style is very similar to mine,” Johnson said. “He likes to get takedowns, but, he’s comfortable in the clinch. The biggest point in this fight is whose back is against the cage and whether or not they’ll be able to reverse.”
Although both Johnson and Moldavsky are known as wrestlers, Johnson says he expects the Russian to be the first one to shoot. Over the past couple of fights, the American has gained confidence in his hands. The reason is due to the fact he knocked out Tyrell Fortune and Matt Mitrione and knows he can win fights on the feet.
Yet, Tim Johnson knows his best path to victory is to go back to his wrestling and grind Moldavsky out for a decision win.
“It will probably be a decision. I do have finishes, I’m not known as a finisher, the same could be said about Moldavsky,” Johnson said. “But, it is a heavyweight fight so anything can happen in the blink of an eye. It will probably end up a five-round decision win for me.”
Despite the fact, it is only the interim title, Johnson says he would consider himself the champ as he gets a belt. It’s also been a crazy turn of events as he started his Bellator career 0-2 with two KO losses to Cheick Kongo and Vitaly Minakov. Yet, Johnson knows that’s just the fight game and anything can happen at any time.
“The fight game is crazy. Just keeping goals in sight and working hard to achieve them. It took time with training partners and changing camps and it has paid off… I’m calling it a title, I’m not taking anything away from it, I still get a belt,” Johnson concluded.
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