Anthony Johnson in good place after 4-year hiatus

In 1999, Nike produced an amazing commercial featuring Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mark McGwire, which it billed “Chicks Dig the Long Ball.”

Anthony “Rumble” Johnson would tell you that everyone digs a knockout. And so with Johnson back after a four-year, one-month retirement from mixed martial arts, there is one question anyone who bumps into the Bellator light heavyweight wants to know:

Will you knock out Jose Augusto at Bellator 258 on Friday?

“Right now, I’m in a great place,” Johnson told Yahoo Sports. “I don’t think the four years is going to do anything. Hopefully, everybody gets to see what they’ve been missing for the last four years. I’ve gotten a ton of messages and [heard] in person the same thing: They don’t get knockouts like they used to.”

Johnson will fight Augusto in Bellator’s light heavyweight Grand Prix instead of Yoel Romero, who was pulled from the fight last week because of an undisclosed medical issue. No official reason was released other than that the Mohegan commission didn’t medically clear him, but it was reportedly something with his eye.

The Romero-Johnson fight was the one that the fans circled on the calendar when Bellator released the brackets. It was two big powerful men who liked to throw hands going at it.

With Romero out, there’s a little less hype around the fight, but Johnson’s return after four years away from the game will bring a lot of attention to the show. Johnson’s last appearance as a pro MMA fighter was at UFC 217 on April 8, 2017, when he was submitted by Daniel Cormier in a rematch for the light heavyweight title.

Losing to Cormier is never anything to be ashamed of, but Johnson gave off a vibe in that fight like he didn’t want to be there. After the bout, he retired and said he was going to run a marijuana business.

Anthony Johnson hasn’t fought since losing to Daniel Cormer at UFC 210 on April 9, 2017, in Buffalo, New York. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

He said his performance in the Cormier fight was because he was disappointed that he didn’t get to fight Jon Jones, as had been planned.

“I wanted to do other things, too, but I was so disappointed that I didn’t get to fight Jon because of the situation,” Johnson said. “I know I didn’t have that fire, that desire. My goal was to fight Jon and I wound up fighting the same individual twice. I should have been fighting Jon Jones, but I can’t take anything away from D.C. He’s an incredible athlete and he elevated the 205 division.”

Johnson said he had his hopes set on fighting Jones, and his emotions weren’t the same when he wound up with Cormier. But he faces much the same situation now, given that he was hoping to fight Romero and wound up with Augusto.

There is, though, a big difference.

“Hey, I took four years off; I’m smarter than that now,” Johnson said, giggling and wagging his finger. “… I was super excited to fight Yoel. He’s dangerous; super dangerous. He was off [for a year] and he’s not getting any younger, so I knew he was going to come to fight. He’s a competitor.

“But you live and you learn. I learn from my mistakes and I learned how to accept things and how to take them whenever my opponent changes. And I see Jose the same way as I saw Yoel. He’s a competitor and we’re both here for a reason. Things happen all the time and nothing ever goes the way you truly planned. I just have to keep the drive and keep the hunger, and that’s what I have. I’ve been training for the last — it feels like ever — for the last year-and-a-half and I’m not going to miss this opportunity.”

That may very well be Johnson’s way of saying what so many want to hear: The KO is back, baby!

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