Johnny Walker will headline a UFC event for the first time when he meets fellow Brazilian light heavyweight Thiago Santos at UFC Vegas 38 on Oct. 2 — and there’s a chance he could already be in the final years of his MMA career.
Speaking on the latest episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, Walker revealed a possible finish line for his run in the sport while discussing whether or not Santos is past his prime.
“I always say an athlete[’s career] has a window,” Walker said. “The window is divided in experience and youth. You don’t have enough experience when you’re too young, but you have strength, cardio, and willpower. And as you get older you no longer have youth, all that cardio, but you have experience, which sometimes compensates for that.
“My window, it’s in my prime right now. I have enough experience and I’m still young, so I’m in my prime. I’m starting my prime. I think an athlete’s prime depends a lot on the quality of their life, genetics, but I think I’ve started my prime now. I’m 29 and I think I’ll fight at a high level until I’m 35. [But] I think I’ll retire after 30. I don’t want to fight after 30.”
Later on, Walker reached out to MMA Fighting to clarify he’s not ending his career by 2022 and is instead aiming for around 35 years of age to leave the sport.
Walker, 29, is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Ryan Spann after bouncing back from defeats to Corey Anderson and Nikita Krylov. Victorious in four of six octagon appearances since joining the company through Dana White’s Contender Series, all by first-round finish, Walker explains why he could call it a career so early in the game.
“I hope so,” Walker said of retiring early. “I love to fight, but, come on — there are days I say, ‘Holy sh*t, I have to brawl all over again today. Four, five guys against me, and me fighting them all, sore, tired, on a diet, hungry, stressed.’ But let’s go, f*** it, I chose this sh*t so let’s go until the end.”
His goal is to bring the UFC light heavyweight championship back — and more — to SBG Ireland.
“When I get the belt [on my shoulder], I’ll want one on the other side as well,” Walker said. “I’ll defend it once, twice, and move up to heavyweight to make history. After I take off, brother, I’ll burn all the fuel until I see how far my rocket can fly.”
As for his opponent’s career, Walker argues that Santos “already had his prime.”
“I won’t say he’s old and can’t fight the way he used to, of course, but I’m 29 and already went through two surgeries, and he’s been through many surgeries too and many injuries, you know?” Walker said. “An athlete’s life is very tough. Train hard every day, fighting every day. I think my window is more open than his, I’m in my prime, and I can already see the belt over there, I’m almost touching it. I’ll open my window soon and get that belt.”
“I’m at the highest level, I’ve never had a camp like this one,” he continued. “I went though hell in training, my mouth is cut open inside and outside. Brother, no way, no f*cking way, we’ll fight hard there. I’ll KO him, I’ll submit him, I’ll fight hard all the time. I’ll be more cautious, circle around, get in, connect and get out, take him down and get back up. He’ll lose his mind, he won’t understand where it’s coming from and what I’m going to do, and that’s when I’ll catch not only him but all of them.”
Check out the latest episode of MMA Fighting’s Brazilian podcast Trocação Franca.