Timothy Johnson takes on Valentin Moldavsky for the interim Bellator MMA heavyweight championship on Friday, June 25th. It all goes down at Bellator 261 from the Mohegan Sun Arena and broadcasts on Showtime.
Excerpts from my recent conversation with Johnson can be found below.
If frustration ever set in with champion Ryan Bader’s light heavyweight grand prix involvement
“It was not maybe frustration. It was kind of blindsided a little bit. Because me and Ryan (Bader), we were talking back and forth on social media. We basically made a gentlemen’s agreement, like ‘hey we’ll fight January or February’. Bellator got off to a late start. They were getting their TV deal in place and whatnot. And then they made the announcement about the light heavyweights…They had a contingency plan set up pretty much right from the get go.”
This recent career stretch showcasing the most optimized version of Timothy Johnson
“Yeah, no, absolutely. It all has to do with the training partners. You know, just a change of philosophies. I’ve always kind of known with the guys I sparred with over the years, I’ve always known that my talent level is there. Sometimes, you know, my biggest roadblock is mentally. I’m probably not alone. I’m not alone in that aspect. A lot of fighters got to probably deal with that. So boost the confidence, it makes you feel untouchable. And I think it’s proven it.”
The improvements in the mental game
“Probably gradual, not just like a light bulb went off. I just think it takes time to make changes. And everyone wants to see instant results, especially nowadays. But it took some time. When I moved out here to Vegas, changed camps, and it’s all finally starting to come together.”
The great mix of prospect and veteran heavyweight sparring partners at Xtreme Couture
“I think after the first PFL series, you know, Ray (Sefo) got back here and all of a sudden there’s about two or three PFL heavyweights running around. And a lot of them are the younger ones, they’re full of piss and vinegar and you’re like calm down a little bit. You guys have too much energy but no, absolutely. It’s a good mixture from each end of the spectrum.”
Preparations for Valentin Moldavsky
“You’d like to, but you know, you never know what someone’s gonna do in a fight. So you can replicate as much as you want, doesn’t mean it’s gonna turn out that way in the fight. So I like to get lots of different views and looks. Learn from the variety of practice partners I have. Keeps you on edge, keeps you guessing. And I think that’s the best way to go into a fight. Don’t anticipate anything and you won’t be surprised by nothing.”
Weaponizing pace in recent camps
“More or less. You prepare for the worst, hope for the best that type of thing. I don’t really want to fight 25 minutes, but I want to make sure that I have the lungs for it. That’s kind of the reason why I ramped up the road work. I’m not a natural runner by any means. But on top of that, I have really short legs for my size….So I hate running. But wanted to make sure that I got plenty of it in.”
Having a young daughter and the dad energy from Timothy Johnson
“Yeah, definitely say so. That was a little more of a motivating factor this last year too. I’m not just out here fighting for myself. I’m fighting for her, family, and to provide for family. It shines a different light on things when you’re trying to provide for your kids as opposed to just going out there and fighting for yourself.”
The redemptive win over Cheick Kongo in their rematch during Kongo’s big Paris fight
“It was kind of a middle finger to everyone. That first fight with him… I have nothing against Cheick at all, he’s a good sport and we respect each other. So it wasn’t like a vendetta against Cheick. It was a vendetta against my performance more so than anything. I can handle taking losses, as long as I know that I left everything in the cage like I did everything I could do to win. That was not it. That was just a weird, flukey moment. I wanted to go out there and prove that that’s not what everyone perceives me as.”
Parting thoughts for Timothy Johnson
“Follow me on Instagram, Twitter @TBearTim. I was kind of late to the game on that whole social media thing. So everyone just go click that follow. And yeah, sponsorships H&I Nutrition…Texas Oil Group. Brewtus’ Brickhouse in Fargo. Black Powder Fireworks in Fargo as well.”
I’ve been enamored with combat sports for as long as I can remember. I’ve hosted MMA talk shows Lights Out and Pure Fight Radio with featured guests like Jens Pulver, Roy Nelson, Miesha Tate, Mark Coleman, and more. I’ve been an MMA broadcaster for XFFC as well as BTC and have done play by play commentary on live pay per view on GFL as well as FITE TV. I’ve provided written, audio, and video content covering some of the biggest MMA promotions like Rumble in the Cage, Unified MMA, and King of the Cage. I’ve worked as a sports entertainment personality for over five years and given play-by-play or featured promotions of KSW, ONE Championship, TKO, and Invicta FC. My work can be found in the USA Today Sports affiliate MMA Torch, Cageside Press, MMA Sucka, and Liberty Multimedia.