World Series of Fighting 2 headliners and the promotion's CEO say a fighter should determine his or her own destiny. If they want to fight at a weight different than what they're known for, they should be able to do so.
In the case of Anthony Johnson (14-4), that means he should be able to fight heavyweight Andrei Arlovski (19-9), and the bout's legitimacy shouldn't be in question.
"Anthony is his own man and can fight at whatever weight he wants to fight at," WSOF CEO Ray Sefo told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
). "If he wants to fight at 205, great. If he wants to fight at heavyweight, great. Who are we to say where he fights at?"
WSOF 2 takes place Saturday at Revel Atlantic City in Atlantic City, N.J. The event's main-card airs live on NBC Sports Network following prelims on Sherdog.com.
One influencer already has given his say: UFC President Dana White, who this past weekend said the WSOF 2 headliner wasn't a legitimate bout because Johnson was a welterweight under his promotion's banner. Johnson hasn't fought at 170 pounds in more than a year, moving from middleweight to light-heavyweight, and for the Arlovski bout, to heavyweight.
"What Dana said was his own opinion," Johnson said. "It didn't really bother me. But to me, this is a legitimate fight. I have no hard feelings toward Dana for whatever he said. I don't even think it was meant in a harmful way toward me or Arlovski. It was just his opinion.
"But I don't know why he said welterweight, when I haven't fought welterweight in over a year. I mean, get with the program, you know what I mean? I fight at 205. I'm fighting heavyweight for this fight. Stop living in the past, when I used to fight at 170. This is totally different. People change, and some people change for the better, and that's what happened to me. So let's not even talk about 170. Let's talk about 205 and heavyweight."
Arlovski, whom White praised at the same time he said the fight wouldn't spur a UFC return, backed Johnson's desire to fight at a heavier weight.
"It doesn't matter what weight he wants to fight; it matters what he's going to bring to the table," Arlovski said. "He trained hard for this fight. It might be an easy fight, or it might be the hardest fight in my MMA career.
"It doesn't really matter, and everybody has their own opinion. I'll bring something to the table, and Anthony will bring something to the table, and we'll see who was right and who was wrong. It's only about the fight."
Although Sefo disagreed with White's assessment of Johnson's choice, he differentiated it from fans who disparaged fighters' performances.
"What gets me the most is if you've never been in that cage and experienced what it's like, if you've never experienced training camp, what these guys go through and the sacrifices they have to put in to be ready for the 23rd, if you've never known what that feels like, then you shouldn't really be disrespecting any of these guys," he said. "It makes me really upset.
"I get it – if you want to criticize something, OK, fine, whatever. But it's one thing to give an opinion – it's another to disrespect. And it really burns a fire underneath me when people who have never been in that cage or ring disrespect the fighters. But at this point, it's just a matter of educating them and saying, 'Listen, maybe go to a gym and experience what it's like for a couple weeks,' and then you'll understand what these guys go through."