Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC by activity of Getty Pictures
Johnny Walker’s boulevard to 2-division UFC glory leads via Magomed Ankalaev, and the celebrated Brazilian finisher has no arrangement of altering his direction.
“I am feeling amazing,” Walker acknowledged forward of his wrestle with the Russian, which headlines this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 234 card in Las Vegas. “I am ready to rock.”
Walker and Ankalaev, the UFC’s No. 3 and No. 7-ranked gentle heavyweights, will most likely be meeting for a second time at this weekend’s event, that may maybe take residing on the promotion’s Apex facility.
The pair’s first encounter occurred on the foremost card of UFC 294 in October. It bought off to a hasty originate up but ended in catastrophe honest as snappy, after Walker “faked” being nervousness by a body shot, leaped into the air in hopes of landing a flying knee, splendid to be taken down and blasted with an illegal knee to the head.
Whereas the Brazilian believed he used to be fit to continue on the time, the cage-side physician disagreed, leaving the referee without a different but to wave off the wrestle and express a no-contest.
In hindsight, Walker admits the doctor made the accurate call, likening Ankalaev’s illegal knee to a “car wreck.”
“We prepare so laborious for that moment,” he recounted. “It be laborious, but generally it’s what it’s.”
“The doctor made the natty decision for me, because I am never gonna originate the natty decision,” he added. “I was gonna dash retain struggling with.”
Walker admits that Ankalaev used to be in a “accurate, solid residing” forward of their first wrestle ended, but he still believes he would savor found a mode to beat the Russian if it weren’t for the depraved.
He’s eager for the different to “clear up the effort” this Saturday.
Despite being listed as a +255 making a wager underdog as of Wednesday evening, Walker is assured he’ll “shock the enviornment.” The main, he believes, is “improvising.”
Thus some distance, his improvisations in the Octagon savor yielded huge outcomes.
Heading into his rematch with Ankalaev, he sports actions a 21-7 professional narrative, with 19 finishes amongst his victories, and 16 of those coming by activity of knockout. He’s also on a 3-wrestle unbeaten walk, and if he ratings a fourth contend with in opposition to Ankalaev, he’ll be one among the pause contenders in the division.
In that event, he can perchance quiz a wrestle with one more Top Five contender fancy Jiri Prochazka, Aleksandar Rakic, or most modern champion Jamahal Hill, to whom he suffered a knockout loss in 2022.
“100 percent I am going to face these guys,” he acknowledged. “All of these guys are going to be in my device one day. It be going to happen because there is no assorted device. The greatest will match up with every assorted.”
“There may maybe be not any easy work anymore. The Top Five is all laborious work, and I fancy laborious work ‘trigger I work laborious every day.”
Walker’s most necessary arrangement, obviously, is the UFC gentle heavyweight throne, which would describe his first belt in the promotion and is occupied by his fellow Brazilian Alex Pereira.
Before becoming a member of the UFC, Pereira reigned as a two-division champion in the Glory kickboxing ring. He has feeble that skills to modified into one among the most fearsome knockout threats in MMA on the present time, but Walker believes he has a accurate shot at defeating his countryman, even supposing their doable wrestle unfolds on the toes.
“I am mammoth, and worthy too,” he acknowledged. “Whoever lands first is gonna savor a accurate night time.”
Whether it potential struggling with Pereira or anyone else, Walker is assured he generally is a UFC champion by the pause of 2024 and believes he has “every part that it takes to be a huge champion.”
Nonetheless, the celebrated Brazilian will no longer be overjoyed with a single UFC title.
Towering over most assorted gentle heavyweights at 6’6″, he believes heavyweight is his “natural” weight class and suspects he’ll be competing there in the no longer-too-some distance-off future.
“My future is going to be heavyweight,” he acknowledged. “I even savor size, I even savor energy, so 100 percent, in a pair of years, I am going to pause up at heavyweight.”
Here is rarely any longer the first time Walker has expressed hobby in involving as much as heavyweight. The Brazilian also teased a weight-class trade early remaining year, soon after frail gentle heavyweight champion Jon Jones submitted Ciryl Gane to claim the vacant heavyweight belt and modified into a two-division champion himself.
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC by activity of Getty Pictures
Walker would still fancy the different to wrestle Jones, who is widely even handed the splendid fighter in MMA history, but recognizes that the American’s occupation is nearing its conclusion, and will no longer be disappointed if he misses the different.
“We are assorted generations of combatants,” he acknowledged of Jones. “He used to be the champion for goodbye; he did huge already. If this wrestle doesn’t happen, I make no longer indubitably care. I am utterly overjoyed for him.”
“If I even savor the different to wrestle him one day, I am blessed, if no longer, I am overjoyed as effectively for his occupation.”
With two titles in his sights, there is no questioning Walker’s ambition, but it be that that that you simply can additionally issue that every body among his dreams hinge on the final outcome of his looming rematch with Ankalaev.
Regardless of the long term holds, the Brazilian may maybe savor the enhance of an ever rising fanbase, and he intends to provide his supporters what they tuned in for this Saturday.
“In the starting [of my UFC career] of us criticized a little bit bit,” he acknowledged. “They issue I am playing too great, I joke too great, but that is me. Of us rating who I am, and they realize it’s what it’s. I am doing what I fancy, and of us contemplate that that is John Walker.”
“I am gonna savor a little bit bit more Johnny Walker [this Saturday].”