Timothy Johnson hopes to capitalize on a big opportunity at the second time of asking.
Johnson (13-6 MMA, 1-2 BMMA) is set to face fellow ex-UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione in the co-main event of Bellator 243 on Friday as he looks to follow up on his finish of rising prospect Tyrell Fortune at Bellator 239.
When Johnson joined Bellator in October 2018, he drew one of the most experienced heavyweights on the roster, Cheick Kongo, but was stopped in just over a minute. That was followed by another first-round stoppage loss to Vitaly Minakov, as Johnson suffered back-to-back losses for the first time in his career. He was then matched up with undefeated prospect Fortune in a fight that saw the oddsmakers rate Johnson as a huge underdog.
However, Johnson produced his best display as a Bellator fighter to upset the highly-touted Fortune via first-round knockout. Now he hopes to carry that momentum into Friday’s fight with Mitrione (13-7 MMA, 4-2 BMMA) at Bellator 243.
“This is a big opportunity,” Johnson told MMA Junkie at Wednesday’s Bellator 243 media day. “When I first came over from UFC to Bellator, they offered me a great opportunity with Cheick, and I kinda pissed that down my leg, and I understand the opportunity I have in front of me again. You only get a handful of those opportunities and can’t let them slip through your fingers when you get them.”
The underdog role is something Johnson has learned to relish, though this time, the odds are nearly even. While he’s content to keep proving naysayers wrong, Johnson can’t seem to understand why he continues to be doubted, considering the level of competition he’s faced throughout his career.
“My whole UFC career, I was only the favorite once, and in my first two fights I was obviously not the favorite and then a huge underdog the last fight,” Johnson said. “I’m kinda used to it, you explain it that way, so I don’t like the even odds. I’m like, ‘Come on people, keep doubting me, I don’t care.’”
He continued, “Seems like everyone forgot the people I’ve fought and my losses were top-notch losses. But, for some reason, I was supposed to go in there and go and get my rear end whipped by Tyrell because I was on my way out. I didn’t get what the oddsmakers were making out of that, but it is what it is.”
Bellator 243 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The main card simulcasts on DAZN and Paramount Network following prelims on MMA Junkie.