World Series of Fighting main event competitor Anthony Johnson has become a professional when it comes to tuning out the interference that seems to always buzz around his head.
During his days in the UFC, when Johnson struggled to make weight while cutting down to 170 pounds, he was routinely slammed on social networks, MMA fan forums and by journalists alike for not hitting the mark on weigh-in day.
Eventually, Johnson had to admit to himself that his body was being brutalized with the huge weight cuts that he had done for years, but the decision to move to light heavyweight was done because he knew it was the right time and not because he got tired of hearing everyone complain about it.
So after a successful campaign at 205 pounds, which included a knockout win in his World Series of Fighting debut, Johnson opted to take a fight at heavyweight against former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski. But as he gets ready for this fight, there's a certain negative buzz that's started to swirl again.
This time it's about Johnson's home camp in Florida and his teammates at the Blackzilians.
The team, which was brought together by Authentic Sports Management owner Glenn Robinson, has experienced some definite growing pains over the last few months, with many of its high-profile fighters suffering losses. From Rashad Evans to Alistair Overeem, the Blackzilians have struggled lately, and immediately, the rash judgment was made that the team is somehow a failure.
Every team in MMA goes through peaks and valleys and the Blackzilians are no different, and Johnson stands beside his teammates through victory and defeat.
"In this sport, you're going to have your losses. That's just the name of the sport, nobody can stay on top forever," Johnson told Bleacher Report. "Even though we've had our losses, the team still trains hard and we still do our best and that's all that matters. We don't care about what everybody says. We know people are going to talk—let them talk, and we just keep it moving. You win some, you lose some; it's all about can you bounce back."
It's easy for any fighter, or team for that matter, to let negativity seep in and infect what they are trying to do on a larger scale. Like a plague that sweeps through a village, Johnson refuses to let talk about his team serve as a black cloud to his preparation.
He knows how good his teammates are at the Blackzilians, and no team is going to win every fight, nor will this current downtrodden time continue forever. The key, as Johnson puts it, is to know how to tune out the negativity and just stay focused on the goal at hand.
"The world is built around being negative whenever something goes wrong. We're not negative on each other," said Johnson. "If one person loses, we all lose. We don't see it as 'oh, that guy lost'—no, we see it as we all lost. It's a team thing, a family thing. No matter what, though, we keep pushing.
"We don't care about what anybody has to say."
Johnson's next opponent has gone through many of the same trials and tribulations.
Less than seven years ago, Andrei Arlovski was standing on top of the world as the UFC heavyweight champion, but then he suffered a four-fight losing streak that had people calling for him to retire. Arlovski refused to listen and fired back with four wins in his next five fights with one ending in a no contest.
Just like the criticism his team has received, Johnson knows Arlovski won't be defined by those that say he's washed up or a shell of the heavyweight he once was when he ruled the UFC. Johnson knows Arlovski is a very dangerous opponent, and he's approaching this fight like he's the best in the world.
"Father time has kicked in. He's not that same fighter that he was before, but he's still a very dangerous man," Johnson said about Arlovski. "He's got his losses, and I've seen him when he first got on the scene in the UFC and was the champ. I saw when he won the belt and when he lost it, to his knockouts, but never judge a book by its cover.
"Just because he's had his ups and downs, which fighter hasn't? I just think about what that man can do to me, not what has happened to him."
Whether Arlovski is a new man or the same man, and whether the entire Blackzilian team wins or loses in their next fights, Johnson is staying focused on what matters most and that's coming away with a victory on Saturday night.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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