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UFC's Anthony Johnson has a fighting demeanor, so deal with it

UFC's Anthony Johnson has a fighting demeanor, so deal with it
Anthony Johnson, top, fights Alexander Gustafsson in Stockholm on Jan. 24, 2015. (Jessica Gow / AFP/Getty Images)

Nowhere in the rules of fighting does it say you have to be nice to people.

So if Anthony Johnson carries some of the same nastiness reserved for the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon to his everyday dealings with humans, what else should we expect?

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He's a fighter.

"If you're a fighter, you're an alpha male," Johnson said. "You have a chip on your shoulder. We are who we are. I am who I am. I'm not living for anyone else, I'm doing things for me. Regardless of what I do, someone's going to have an opinion about something. And that goes for … no matter who you are."

Johnson (20-5), the UFC's second-ranked light-heavyweight, will fight college wrestling standout and fourth-ranked Ryan Bader (21-4) on Saturday night (5 p.m. Pacific) on Fox, headlining a card from Newark, N.J., that includes a heavyweight bout between Josh Barnett and Ben Rothwell.

After landing a title shot against then-champion Jon Jones in 2015 by knocking out Alexander Gustafsson in the first round a year ago, Johnson instead faced Daniel Cormier for the belt stripped from Jones for reckless personal behavior.

Cormier, a distinguished wrestler, submitted Johnson in the third round.

So the Bader test could force Johnson to reveal the strides he's made in dealing with wrestlers.

"He's a good wrestler. I'm a good wrestler. I had one fight against a world-class, Olympic-level wrestler and everybody all of a sudden thinks my wrestling sucks," Johnson said.

"That shows the thinking of people in MMA. I'm not trying to shut everybody up. I'm here to fight. People are going to talk regardless if I can stop his takedowns or not, so … I can give them something else to talk about, I guess."

Following the Cormier loss, Johnson got into a scuffle of some sort with a woman at a gym where he was working out, an incident that prompted a UFC investigation.

Johnson returned to the octagon in September and scored a second-round knockout and "performance of the night" bonus against Jimi Manuwa, underlining his standing as one of the UFC's hardest punchers.

But he also scolded reporters at the post-fight news conference for referencing his gym episode in incomplete, opinionated ways that portrayed him as something worse than a bully.

"I don't know what I'm painted as," Johnson said. "I can be happy as hell and then someone says something and I feel different. People are going to say whatever they want to say to … get people to read their story. I just ask people to write the whole, complete story."

The UFC didn't suspend Johnson after its probe, allowing him to fight on. His showing against Manuwa restored some confidence.

"It comes natural," Johnson said of his striking prowess. "I go in there to be a pressure fighter. I try to make sure the fight is the safest one possible for me, and that's by knocking him out."

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Beating Bader -- who has won five consecutive bouts -- would leave Johnson well-positioned to fight the winner of the tentatively scheduled April 23 rematch between Cormier and Jones. UFC President Dana White told The Times in a text message Thursday that the bout was "not done yet."

"I haven't been told anything about what can happen from here," Johnson said. "I take it a fight at a time. In this game, even when I was told I was getting a title shot [against Jones] … it doesn't mean it's happening. You have to wait until you're in the cage. They told Bader he'd get a title fight after [beating former champion] Rashad [Evans in October], and look at him … he gets me.

"Tough road. That's how it is. Miesha Tate, too. You definitely can't trust it" until "you're in the cage together .... So I'll go out there and do my best and see what happens."

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