Veteran heavyweight Tony Johnson has signed a multi-fight deal with Russia’s Fight Nights Global, and “Hulk” is looking to make a big splash in his promotional debut.
“I have four fights on this contract,” Johnson told MMAjunkie. “I would like one of those fights to be Vitaly Minakov.”
Minakov (20-0) is a former Bellator heavyweight champion who walked away from the promotion in 2014 in favor of fighting in his native Russia. He’s since rattled off six consecutive stoppage wins under the Fight Nights Global banner and currently sits at No. 7 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings.
Johnson (11-3) said it’s precisely because of those accomplishments that he wants the fight.
“Vitaly Minakov is a great fighter and hard worker,” Johnson said. “He has never turned anyone down. That’s why I respect him as an athlete. Being undefeated as a heavyweight is something special. I want to be the first to put a ‘1’ on the other side of his record.”
While Minakov has been focused on competing in Russia, he said he is “pretty well familiar” with Johnson – and aware that he’s lobbying for a fight.
“Tony had some interesting fights,” Minakov said. “He had vivid battles. Not only has he wrestled as he usually does, but he’s also knocked out his rivals. We all have seen his fight against Alexander Volkov. Tony simply gave ‘Sasha’ no chances use his strength – his striking.
“I should mention the fact that Tony is massive and, quite frankly, is overweight. But in our sport, this is not a disadvantage, and I think that Tony Johnson belongs to the category of fighters who know how to use the excess weight to their advantage. We have seen how he knocks people out easily with just one or two hits. Therefore, he uses his mass.
“This opponent is an interesting one to me. Actually, I would like to fight him. The thing is that today he’s one of the most exciting heavyweights on the Fight Nights Global roster, despite the fact that he is new to the organization, so if I am given the opportunity to fight him, I will gladly do it.”
Fight Nights Global Kamil Gadzhiev stopped short of booking the fight but did say he would consider Johnson’s request for a potential featured slot on an upcoming card.
“Objectively speaking, Tony Johnson is one of those who are the real competition to Vitaly Minakov,” Gadzhiev said. “Tony is familiar with wrestling, he is brave, he has a certain experience, he’s explosive and he is known by the Russian audience, which is also important. I think this fight is more than possible.
“We now have four leaders in the heavyweight division: Sergey Pavlovich and Kirill Sidelnikov – who will meet to fight for Fight Nights Global’s championship belt f things go according the plan – then Tony Johnson and Vitaly Minakov. Three of the four named fought on June 2, soon enough they will be fighting again, so the collision of these two guys is quite logical.”
For more on Fight Nights Global’s upcoming events, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.
Filed under: News
Source: MMA Junkie