What Next for Walker After Ankalaev Loss?

January 16, 2024
1 month

Johnny Walker entered the UFC Fight Night wanting to secure himself a better ranking in the light heavyweight rankings…yet he came up short and lost the match to Magomed Ankalaev. Where does this leave the Brazilian fighter and his career going forward?

Still in the Top 10 Light Heavyweights

While this loss to Magomed Ankalaev won’t put Johnny Walker in title contention immediately, it’s important to remember that he is still a top 10 light heavyweight in the UFC rankings. In fact, he’s the #7 fighter. He’s not suddenly become a terrible fighter.

That means that he will still be able to get good fights in the division if he wants to stick around. Ryan Spann, Alonzo Menifield, and Dominick Reyes would still benefit from fighting the Brazilian combatant, as they are ranked below Walker. Equally, those just above him in the division standings, Nikita Krylov, Aleksandar Rakić, and Jan Błachowicz, can’t look down their noses at Johnny, as he’s still just a single win away from being a top-five fighter.

The point is that if he wants to continue fighting on the same path, he’s got the credibility to take this loss and move on. It will get harder to do so if he keeps losing fights from this point on – but right now, he still has certain luxuries afforded to him.

Krylov vs. Walker II – The Best Fight Out There

If he wants to proceed on the same path, Johnny Walker needs to keep some momentum. He can’t annex himself from the other fights if he’s ever to get a title match. He’s already fought Nikita Krylov, but their first match was almost four years ago in 2020. The Ukrainian fighter got a decision victory back then. The two fighters are now ranked sixth and seventh in the light heavyweight rankings, meaning that they still can fight for dominance of the division.

Walker should make it known to Dana White and other matchmaking management that this is the fight he wants. Krylov is overdue a fight, having not competed since March 2023. If he were to defeat Walker for a second time, he’d surely climb up into the top five of the division rankings and be on the door of a title shot.

Shift Up to the Heavyweight Division

Is there ever a good time to enter the UFC heavyweight division? Right now, it’s in a bit of bad shape with Jon Jones, the champion, out with a prolonged injury. Tom Aspinall is the interim champion, meaning that a unification fight is on the cards at some point.

Johnny Walker participated in the heavyweight ranks in his days before joining the UFC. He even challenged for the Samurai FC heavyweight championship and fought a few more fights after that title bout in this weight class, including a fight on a Polish-led card held in Southampton.

Given that he’s not been able to win that many fights at light heavyweight in the UFC, could he hit the gym and protein bars and try his abilities back at this weight? Dana White would probably thank him for trying to bring more active fighters into the division. It would also unlock a lot of new potential fights for the Brazilian. Some of which can make MMA breaking news.

In theory, he could probably negotiate a fight with Marcos Rogerio de Lima or Rodrigo Nascimento for his UFC heavyweight debut. These fights against the top 15 participants (or around that) would help gauge whether he could be successful in the heavyweight division.

Exit the UFC and Fight Somewhere Else

There comes a point when Johnny Walker will have to assess his career prospects if he is to stay within Dana White’s promotion. He’s had 13 fights and won seven of them. That’s fine but not remarkable; he doesn’t make the MMA news sites get excited. He’s earning a lot of money to be a very average fighter.

While the financial uplift of the UFC can be motivation enough for some fighters, others have to think about whether they would prefer to fight elsewhere and potentially win more fights. The UFC isn’t necessarily the best destination for all fighters in the contemporary MMA world.

Walker fought all over his native Brazil with a wide variety of promotions like Katana Fight, Samurai FC, and Jungle Fight. Before being selected for Dana White’s contender series, he even fought on a card promoted by Brave CF. This shows that Walker is open to doing business with many different parties. If he were to sever his contract with the UFC, he could still attract interest from promotions like the PFL, ONE Championship, or even OKTAGON. The latter of which has a strong connection to Ireland, where Walker spends a lot of time.

If none of them appeal, he could go back to Brazil and fight with the promotions in which he made his name. Jungle FC is still running and would benefit from having someone like Walker return to the promotion for a few more fights.

Give It Up and Try Something Else

One option could be to walk away from the MMA cage altogether. That KO was a vicious one from Magomed Ankalaev, as revered by MMA news websites. Walker, while in his recovery, could think that after 30 professional MMA fights, that’s enough, and he doesn’t want to be punched in the head anymore. Walker is also very passionate about fitness and sculpting his body, often seen doing so on his social media profiles. Could he lean more toward that pastime? He’s got camps in both Brazil and the Republic of Ireland, so he could manage his fitness career on both sides of the Atlantic.

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