Former MSUM Wrestler Johnson Set for First Title Fight in Bellator

Fighting for Interim Heavyweight Title on June 25th

MOORHEAD, Minn — From being a two-time All-American for Minnesota-State-Moorhead wrestling to know getting his chance to be a heavyweight champion in Bellator, its been quite the journey for Tim Johnson getting to the top of the sport.

Taking on a professional career in combat sports wasn’t always the plan for MSUM alum Tim Johnson, however, after training with two local fighters out of college who needed a big body just eight weeks later landed his first fight in mixed martial arts.

“I never had aspirations to make the UFC when I first started fighting or anything like that. I just got done wrestling and wanted to keep competing,” Johnson said. “I’m a guy with a pretty competitive nature. It was just a good way of keeping it going a little while longer.”

Success on that level led to a UFC contract in 2015 after winning seven bouts in regional tournaments. After claiming victory in four of seven fights, his contract was not renewed, however, Johnson knew Bellator was the right next move.

“In UFC, you’re more of a number not so much an individual. You’re more of a product and what have you done for me lately type of attitude,” Johnson said. “Over here at Bellator, everyone is a lot more personable. More professional in the matter. More personal in the matter of if I really needed to I could get a phone number for Scott Coker (CEO of Bellator) and call him. In the UFC, I was too low on the totem pole to get a hold of Dana White (UFC Commissioner).

After losing his first two fights in Bellator, Johnson moved out to Las Vegas for training and it changed everything.

“I’ve been out there for two and half years now. The gym there at the Academy of Combat Arts in Fargo got me through the UFC,” Johnson said. “I had a lot of practice partners there but then they dried out and it was time for a change so I want out to Extreme Couture. Now I have five to eight different heavy weights a day who are training with me. That’s just the biggest switch is it took a little time for it to happen but it takes time to get rid of bad habits. Everybody in there keeps me honest. Definitely that’s the turnaround. Iron sharpens iron.

Now Johnson owns a 15-6 record, has a three fight win streak with two of those coming by knockouts and earning the number one heavyweight ranking. Its set Johnson up for the first ever interim title bout with the division currently split having a lightweight class for this year. The opponent: Valentin Moldavsky who is undefeated for his Bellator career.

“Being able to get a TKO or a KO would be great but he’s a Russian so they’re like little tanks so that’ll be tough to pull off,” Johnson said. “Getting the hands raised some how and being able to outperform him in the clinch and in the cage work and get back to my wrestling roots a little bit.”

Vegas has Johnson as a 3-to-1 underdog in his first fight since October. You can catch the bout Friday night on Showtime with the main card at 8 P.M.

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