Tim Johnson won’t be rattled by the aura of the legendary Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator 269.

Johnson (15-7 MMA, 3-3 BMMA) is positioned as the spoiler going into Saturday’s event as he travels into VTB Arena in Moscow to fight Emelianenko (39-6 MMA, 3-2 BMMA) in the heavyweight headliner, which airs on Showtime following prelims streamed on MMA Junkie.

The former PRIDE FC champion Emelianenko is widely regarded as one of greatest fighters in MMA history. His decorated resume through more than 20 years in the game speaks for itself, and although he’s very much at the tail end of his career, he’s still a one-of-a-kind figure in the fight game.

Johnson admits he’s felt that going into Bellator 269. He said he was a little bit in awe of the fact he got this fight after first signing the contract for it, but said as time passed during training camp, the image of Emelianenko blended into just another opponent.

“I think if you allow yourself to, you can probably get wrapped up in that pretty quick,” Johnson told MMA Junkie and other media during Tuesday’s Bellator 269 virtual media day. “When the fight was announced for the first couple weeks it was like, ‘I’m fighting Fedor.’ Then now it’s 100 percent focus on it just being a fight. The first couple weeks I allowed myself to drift off into that type of thinking, but now this is a fight. This is what I get paid to do and this is for my family and my future. This is just an opponent who is in front of my goals.”

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Not only has Johnson nullified the essence of Emelianenko in his mind, but he’s prepared for the environment he’s about to walk into on Saturday. Emelianenko hasn’t fought in his native Russia since June 2016, and the crowd is certainly going to be raucous in his favor.

Johnson said he doesn’t expect what will be a very pro-Fedor crowd to impact him, though.

“I embrace that,” Johnson said. “How many people get to experience stuff like that? That’s the way I look at it. Coming out here and fighting the Russian in his home country. I don’t think very many people are going to experience that.”

Johnson knows the significance of this fight against Emelianenko for his career. He fell short of the Bellator interim heavyweight title in June when he lost a unanimous decision to Emelianenko’s pupil, Valentin Moldavsky, at Bellator 261 in June.

Although some things have to play out in the heavyweight division before Johnson can fight for any version of the belt again, he knows going into hostile territory and snatching a win over Emelianenko would do wonders for his stock.

“A win over Fedor – I don’t know if that gets me right back into title contention,” Johnson said. “Maybe another fight with me and Cheick (Kongo) go a third time. I don’t know what’s happening with (Vitaly) Minakov and his contract going on and where he’s fighting from hereon out. Maybe after this fight we have a No. 1 contender fight and just have to wait and see what happens with Ryan Bader and Moldavsky (in their title unification fight).”


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