Johnny Walker says doctor made ‘fair’ decision to stop first Magomed Ankalaev fight: ‘I thought I was OK, but I certainly wasn’t’

Johnny Walker wasn’t happy when a cageside doctor made the controversial call to end his UFC 294 bout with Magomed Ankalaev this past October in Abu Dhabi, however he holds no grudges heading into the immediate rematch this Saturday at UFC Vegas 84.

Walker, who headlines UFC Vegas 84 opposite Ankalaev at the UFC APEX, said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast that he’s at peace with everything that went down that night at the Etihad Arena, and now understands why the doctor called off the bout moments after Ankalaev landed an illegal knee to his head, which led to a no-contest.

“The only thing that I think could have changed is giving me five minutes to breathe and see what was going on,” Walker said. “It landed on my chin, of course, and I must have felt something there. We are too tough and sometimes we don’t really know how much it affected us. The doctor’s decision was probably fair because I couldn’t move my neck after the fight, my collar bone was swollen. So if I go back into the fight, I would be in disadvantage because he landed an illegal blow and my body felt it, like a car crash.

“I have nothing to complain about [regarding] the doctor because he made the right choice, it really was a hard knee,” he continued, “but we’re too tough for our own good and I didn’t feel it at the time. I was sore for a week because of that knee. He made the right choice because I would have been in disadvantage, so he has to make the call for me. We’ll never admit it and say, ‘I got hit by that knee and I don’t want to fight anymore.’ No, we’ll always want to fight, so someone else has to make the smart call for us. I thought I was OK, but I certainly wasn’t. We don’t know. That’s why we have a doctor there to make the call for us.”

Check out the fight-ending sequence below.

Walker said he holds no ill will toward Ankalev either despite the illegal knee, saying he’s “a machine” that will never deal with flights emotionally. UFC Vegas 84 marks Walker’s first rematch in 30 professional MMA bouts, and there’s no feeling of revenge in his heart.

“I’ve trained for six months to beat up one guy,” Walker said. “The fight didn’t end the way I wanted last time but I’m ready, excited, and injury-free. Last time I had a foot injury, a torn ligament, and still fought. It’s going to be a whole other fight now. I’m more confident now, I’ve felt what’s like to fight him, his strength. He’s very technical and has tons of experience, but I’m much stronger than he is. I got out of one of his best positions easily, no problem, and he landed that illegal knee.”

The strategy hasn’t changed a bit for the rematch, said the SBG Ireland light heavyweight, but Ankalaev is “mapped out” now after their three minutes in the cage together. Walker said he was able to see how the Russian fighter moves and reacts to attacks. The Brazilian talent added that he respects Ankalaev, even though Ankalaev might be over-hyped by some, and Walker sees this match as his last test before challenging for UFC gold.

“He hasn’t fought anyone tough yet, anyone who’s on a run to become champion,” said Walker, who beat Ion Cutelaba, Paul Craig, and Anthony Smith in his most recent octagon victories. Ankalaev suffered the lone loss of his career at the hands of Craig in 2018 and has since gone unbeaten in 11 straight bouts, including wins over Smith and Cutelaba.

“He’s fought some quality fighters in the top 10 but he hasn’t fought anyone hyped up, people you look at and say, ‘He can become champion now,’” Walker added. “I’m one of those guys that can become champion, so he’s going to get tested. And I’m going to get tested too. We’re both going to get tested. The one that leaves that cage [with the win] will be the next champion, right? That’s what I plan on doing Saturday, running through him and showing I’m ready to be the next champion.”

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