Interview: Tony Johnson Jr. says after win vs. Cheick Kongo he will never let Matt Mitrione hold the belt

Tony Johnson Jr. is just days away from his toughest test inside the Bellator MMA cage as he is set to take on long time mixed martial artist and UFC veteran Cheick Kongo in the main event of Bellator 161. The winner of this epic clash is expected to get themselves a future title shot.

Johnson (10-2) is fast becoming one of the world’s top heavyweight fighters thanks, in no part, to his coaches and team mates at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, California, the home to the likes of Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold and Ruslan Magomedov. With training partners like those Johnson has always been well prepared for his fights which shows on his record where he has faced and beaten the likes of Raphael Butler, Alexander Volkov, Tim Sylvia and Derrick Lewis.

With preparations for Johnson’s biggest test to date going well a tragedy outside of the gym nearly cost him the biggest fight of his career… But no matter the size of the speed bump in his way, Johnson is coming for glory.

“Camp is going well although we had a couple of incidents,” Johnson told “My brother passed away last week and you know I’m just trying to focus on this fight, but other than that camp is going really well. It will fuel my fire, coming back and training after that was tough. It was tough mentally you know but we are going to get passed it and when I am in the cage my brother will be with me. I’m excited about this opportunity and I couldn’t not fight and i am ready to fight. September 16 i will be there and ready to go.”

The opportunity that Johnson speaks of is potentially beating one of the world’s better known heavyweight fighters in Cheick Kongo. A veteran with over 35 fights to his name, he has also faced and beaten the best the world has to offer and Johnson is very much aware of what a win over Kongo means for his future title aspirations.

“Every fight that you have is tough,” Johnson said. “Especially this one, this is Cheick Kongo he’s fought the who and I was a fan of his growing up but this is my time now. I have fought really hard to be where I am right now and I am excited for this opportunity and i will seize the moment. I have watched Cheick Kongo and I knew this fight was gonna come around sooner or later. He’s tough, he knows all the tricks in the game. I call him the “OG” of the division, he’s 40-years old but like i said i am ready this is my time and I want the tough fights, ever since I came to Bellator I have had tough fights. I know Kongo has been working on his wrestling but I have been wrestling since I was 4-years old and that and my cardio will be an advantage for me, he usually gasses in the second round. I really want the knockout, honestly I want to knock him out cold and make statement.”

Currently unbeaten in his Bellator career (3-0), Johnson feels that with a dominant performance he should leap-frog promotional newcomer Matt Mitrione for a title shot.

“I believe if I take care of business and I do it impressively that title shot is mine,” Johnson said.” Who else is there? Only Matt Mitrione really. I am number 3 in the division right now, Kongo is number 2 and Mitrione is number 1 so who is there after Kongo? Only Matt. His (Mitrione) first performance sucked, his second performance sucked he hasn’t fought anybody where as my first fight (second Bellator stint) was Alexander Volkov. He didn’t look good in London and I just do not respect that man so after I take care of Cheick Kongo I am gonna take care of Matt Mitrione cause while I’m in Bellator he will never have that belt.”

Bellator 161 takes place this Friday Spetember 16 from the H-E-B center in Cedar Park, Texas. The card is headlined by Tony Johnson Jr vs. Chieck Kongo and co-headlined by Sirwan Kakai vs. Joe Warren.

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