Anthony Johnson’s Second Act

Fightland Blog

By Chris Rini


Last weekend, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson made a statement when he beat mixed martial arts veteran Antonio "Lil Nog" Rogerio Nogueira. In just 44 seconds the Blackzilian team member laid down a dominating performance against the Brazilian that eclipsed his upset loss to Rameau Sokoudjou back in PRIDE. 

After putting the fear in Phil Davis at UFC 172, Nogueira seemed like a bit of a step down in competition. Sure enough in San Jose at UFC Fight Night on Fox, Rumble was bigger, faster and stronger. He bullied Nogueira against the fence and unleashed a series of uppercuts that left fans wondering if another legend should retire. It was like Father Time allowed a younger and more athletic fighter to pick off an aging veteran. It’s no marvel, but Johnson's path is far from normal.

After missing weight numerous times during his first tenure with the organization, Johnson was let go and forced to travel the lower tiers of MMA for more than two years. The strangest part of missing weight was that Johnson had cut an absurd amount, shrinking his 205lb frame down to welterweight size. Joe Rogan made the observation recently that when a fighter is cutting that much weight to gain a size and strength advantage, it's possible that he will lack the confidence to compete on an equal playing field. Perhaps that was the case, or perhaps Johnson took his employment as a UFC fighter (with six wins and five finishes) for granted. Rumble collected six more victories in the minor leagues and came to a sort of acceptance: the 205lb division was his real home. In a division once centered around the trifecta of Jon Jones, Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier, Johnson has inserted himself "in the mix."

Equally as impressive as his athletic performances has been Anthony Johnson's rebirth as a member of the UFC's elite fighters. At 30 years old, he seems to be hitting his stride emotionally. His interviews are full of praise for the promotion that once let him go—it's a wonder the media has not given him a new moniker, Anthony 'Humble" Johnson. Perhaps with a little influence from the ever-dapper Rashad Evans, Johnson showed up to the Fox press conference in a smart bow tie and vest outfit that suggested a man ready to embrace the spotlight. The contrast between the wrecking machine in the cage, and the slightly nervous, soft-spoken man, eager to share the joy of redemption, was striking. We are all eager to see how far the prodigal son can climb in this second act. 



Check out these related stories:

The Cold Submissions of Gunnar Nelson

Mixed Martial Arts at the Turn of the Century

Do or Die: The Championship Belt or Bust