It doesn’t matter if he is in fighting in Las Vegas, Rio or Charlotte, Johnny Walker loves every city that he fights in, and everyone loves him back.
“I think with the personality that I have, everywhere in the world where I fight, I don't think I'll have many haters,” Walker said. “I go there to do my job, to have fun, to put the show on. I think I'm welcome to everywhere I want to go because I don't talk much s*** about nobody, and I’m just myself.”
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The 31-year-old enters his co-main event bout against Anthony Smith on a two-fight win streak with victories over Ion Cutelaba and, most recently, Paul Craig in Rio. Both of those victories were first-round finishes and have put Walker firmly at No. 7 in the light heavyweight rankings.
His victory over Craig gave Walker a lot of confidence about the potential that he has in the UFC, and that he could one day be the one with the gold around his waist.
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“It meant a lot (to beat Craig) because the guy dislocated the arm of the champion,” Walker said. “He was coming off a good streak of wins and it's a high level. I just finished him in the first round, and I showed the potential that I have to finish people. I can finish, choke you out or knock you out. I know I'm very dangerous fighter; besides my jokes, my personality, I kill people, my friend.”
Walker attributes his recent success to being more mature, more consistent, committed and disciplined. He trains out of SBG Ireland under John Kavanagh, and the environment in which he has been training has led to his success inside the Octagon.
Johnny Walker | Best Moments
Johnny Walker | Best Moments
“John Kavanagh is an excellent coach, so he always brings new things on the mat,” Walker said. “He will watch the fight from the weekend and come back the next day with something that happened that helps you solve the puzzle. You always can improve and can learn. I'm an everyday fighter, I diet all year, I train hard, and I look after myself all year. I'm committed to my life and my career.”
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Back in 2019 at UFC 235, Smith faced off against current heavyweight champion Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title. He lost a five-round unanimous decision to Jones and hasn’t fought for the title since.
Walker believes his time is now and Smith is in his way.
“He's an excellent fighter, and high level, a lot of experience, but he has had his shots,” Walker said. “He had his race for the title shot. I'm sorry, bro, but now it's my time. I have been working really hard and he’s just in my way now, and I have to finish business.”
Throughout his professional career, Walker has earned 16 of his 20 wins by knockout, and three by submission. He has only been to the judges’ scorecards three times in career and isn’t planning on adding to that list on Saturday night against Smith.
“My biggest strength is my unpredictability,” Walker said. “I can take anything from anywhere, you don't know where the pressure comes from. I can choke you out, I can take you down. I can kick you, punch, elbow. I have so many weapons and I know the right time to choose them because now as I have more time, I learned how to use more.”
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When he envisions the fight on Saturday night, Walker doesn’t see it going to the judges; he plans on finishing Smith within 15 minutes. He doesn’t have a definite plan of whether it will be by submission or knockout, but he is going to take every opportunity that he gets to make sure it doesn’t end up with the judges.
Walker knows that a third straight win, perhaps a third straight finish, puts him one step closer to earning a title shot. He wants to show that he is ready to become champion.
“It’s a really good time to get another victory,” Walker said. “Three straight wins, two in the same year. I just want to finish this year with one more and put myself in a really good position to get the title shot next. If I put on a really good performance and show that I'm ready, you never know what's going to happen next.”
UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs Almeida took place live from the Spectrum Center in Charlotte on May 13, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!
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