Johnny Walker has laid out a scenario in which he becomes the UFC light heavyweight champion by April, and now he’s working towards that goal.
The Brazilian talent rematches Magomed Ankalaev in the main event of UFC Vegas 84 this Saturday at the UFC APEX, running back a match that ended prematurely due to an illegal knee at UFC 294 in October 2022, and he sees bigger stakes now.
Light heavyweight had no champion back then, but that changed weeks later when Alex Pereira claimed the vacant title against Jiri Prochazka at UFC 295. Now, Walker believes he could insert himself in the title mix with a victory over a former title challenger in Ankalaev.
Jamahal Hill won the vacant belt in January 2022 but then vacated it due to injury, and it’s still unclear if he’ll recover in time to be Pereira’s next opponent.
“I think Jamahal is ahead of me, and if he wants to fight [Pereira next], whatever,” Walker said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “But if he can’t fight, I’ll do it. You have to respect those ahead of you, but if he can’t fight, I’ll take the spot and fight for the belt.”
If Walker and Pereira meet next, preferably at UFC 300 on April 13 as the contender suggested, Walker said “it will be a brawl.” Pereira dropped the middleweight title in a rematch with Israel Adesanya run early 2022 but performed an incredible turnaround months later, beating Jan Blachowicz and Prochazka to add another gold to his legacy.
“We have to fight smart,” Walker said of facing Pereira. “The first to connect, [the other guy] goes down. It’s going to be an interesting fight if it happens — and I hope it does. I’m excited because the division is heating up again, there are plenty of interesting fights to book. I think it’s going to be a fun fight and everybody will enjoy watching. For sure, someone will get knocked out, so it’s going to be fun.”
Walker wasn’t surprised to see “Poatan” excel in the 205-pound division considering “he’s a big guy and has lots of potential, a great striker.” He even wonders if the two-division champion could eventually move up to heavyweight sometime down the line.
That switch, in fact, seems inevitable for Walker as well.
“I dons know if I could go down to middleweight [like Pereira did], but I’ll definitely fight at heavyweight one day,” Walker said. “I’m the heaviest and tallest fighter in this division. I’m just passing by in this division, I won’t be able to make the weight for much longer. It will get harder as I get older, but I’m still young. It’s getting harder, but I can do it.”
Walker said his metabolism is good so hitting championship weight at 205 is relatively easy now, but it still takes a toll on his body as he needs to follow a strict diet during his camp. The SBG Ireland representative has competed as a heavyweight in the past in his native Brazil, but said today’s Walker would absolutely maul that old heavier version of himself.
“It’s different when I can eat more calories,” Walker said. “I’m stronger when I’m not on a diet mid-camp, I lift weight easier, I’m stronger. I can do better rounds. It’s energy, it’s different. If I fight at heavyweight one day, I’m excited to do that to see how it’s going to be to train and eat properly, to eat enough for my body to have energy to spend during training and fighting. I’m always on deficiency to keep my weight low. I’m never on my peak during camp. I’m only peaking on fight night when I’m done with the diet and the weight cut and I can eat, eat, and eat, and put all the energy in, so I feel like a monster on fight night.”