Johnson, a welterweight who cuts as much as 50 pounds to make the 170-pound limit, was in February forced to withdraw from a bout with rival John Howard at UFC on Versus 1 because of the injury. He has struggled since to get his knee back to 100 percent.
“He has to maintain a very diligent cardio routine to stay in striking range of 170 (pounds),” Johnson’s manager, Ken Pavia, today told MMAjunkie.com “Because of his knee injury, his weight has gotten up a little bit, and we don’t want to delay his comeback because of a weight issue. So we’re entertaining the possibility of taking a fight at 185 (pounds).”
Johnson underwent knee surgery a month ago and has not fought since welterweight contender Josh Koscheck submitted him at UFC 106 this past November. The loss snapped a three-fight streak of wins by TKO or KO.
Johnson, who was traveling today and unreachable for comment, has previously spoken about the arduous process of shedding so many pounds and his high walk-around weight between fights.
“Anthony Johnson is one of our more solid light heavyweights right now,” Pavia said today. “I’m pretty sure he’s bigger than Tito (Ortiz).”
A severely dehydrated Johnson needed to be carried to the weigh-ins and missed weight by five pounds for his fight with Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 104 this past October (he was allowed a one-pound overage for the non-title fight). He defeated the Japanese fighter by first-round TKO.
Johnson has not yet agreed to the move, and Pavia said any weight change will be temporary. There is no concrete timetable for the his return and no current offers to appear at middleweight.
“It’s touch and go until he reaches another level of rehabilitation,” Pavia said. “He’s anxious to go, and we’re holding him back because we don’t want the injury to be re-occurring.
The UFC has no objections to Johnson’s move, he added.
“[UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva has a couple rules that he lives by, one of which is he’ll never tell a fighter what weight to fight at, and he’ll never make a fighter fight injured,” Pavia said. “And he’ll tell you that over and over again.
“That being said, the last time he saw [Johnson], he turned to me and said, ‘C’mon, dude.’ So that’s one of the reasons we’re entertaining an [185 pound] fight. It’s not for sure yet.
Pavia said Johnson’s priority is winning the welterweight belt followed by the middleweight belt.
“[A middleweight fight] may expedite his return, as opposed to taking more time off to reach the ultimate goal,” Pavia said. “I don’t think he’s convinced. He’s considering it.”