Editor's note: This article was published before the news of Yoel Romero pulling out of the scheduled fight against Anthony Johnson.
After four years of being away from the sport, former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Anthony "Rumble" Johnson made waves when it was announced he was signing with Bellator MMA and would compete in their Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix. More intrigue and energy were added into the Grand Prix tournament when the promotion announced that Johnson would face former UFC middleweight title challenger, Yoel Romero.
The timing made sense
During this week's Bellator 258 pre-fight press conference, Johnson spoke to the media about several topics ahead of his opening round matchup against Romero, including his opponent and decision to come out of retirement. When asked about his decision to join Bellator, Johnson told the media that he always "had his eye on them" and while he took time away from active competition, there was no better time than the present.
When asked about why now worked best for his return and why coming to terms with Bellator all made sense, Johnson told the media that everything in his life lined up for this opportunity to come about.
"I just feel like it was the right move at this time of my life. I think Bellator gives just as much opportunities as any other organization. And a lot of people still don't know who Bellator is but Yoel [Romero] and I will change that, that's for sure. I just felt like it was time to move on and try something new, and why not go to the top of the food chain? Bellator.
Looking to add to his resume
While Anthony Johnson has missed out on having a championship on his resume, he has been credited as one of the hardest punchers in MMA history, and one of the most feared fighters throughout his career, but now he can possibly add to that resume. With an opportunity in front of him, Johnson credits Bellator for opening their doors to him and said he's looking to make a new name for himself in his new home.
"They opened their doors to me, so why not take the opportunity and see what I can do there? I made mark in other places, I want to make my mark here too.
Making his mark will be different for Anthony Johnson in his new home with Bellator and that's thanks to the Grand Prix tournament that he'll be making his promotional debut in. The beauty of the tournament is that there are no politics involved, calling out opponents doesn't matter, it's about beating the opponent placed in front of you, and moving on to face whoever falls next in line through the bracket. No longer will there be an opportunity for fighters to avoid "Rumble" Johnson, especially in the tournament.
The Grand Prix also offers Johnson an opportunity to get that championship title that has eluded him throughout his career, and the added bonus of getting $1 million award that awaits the tournament winner.
The challenge that lies ahead
As the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix began the chatter among the participants, media, and fans was that Bellator's talent at light heavyweight could be the best class among all top MMA promotions, including the UFC. The tournament includes four former UFC standouts: Johnson, Romero, Ryan Bader, and Corey Anderson, and all have a legitimate chance to win it all, but the champion Vadim Nemkov will be no easy victory either.
The way the bracket is set up, if Johnson gets past Romero, he'll face the champion Nemkov, and if he is victorious there, he'll become champion and face the winner of Bader vs Anderson for the tournament championship. Plain and simple, the challenge in front of Anthony Johnson will not be easy, but he ended his retirement for a reason, and if this is the perfect time, promotion, and opportunity, "Rumble" could be on the verge of making waves in Bellator MMA.