Former MMA fighter Anthony “Rumble” Johnson died Sunday after a yearlong illness, a Bellator spokesperson told the Associated Press. He was 38.
ABOUT Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson
Anthony Kewoa Johnson (March 6, 1984 – November 13, 2022) was an American mixed martial artist. He spent most of his career competing for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where he was a multiple time title challenger, before ending his career in with a single fight with Bellator MMA. He fought in the light heavyweight division. He was mainly known by his nickname, Rumble, which he was given because of his one-punch knockout power. He was the number 1 ranked light heavyweight contender in official UFC rankings, and was ranked number 2 in the world by Sherdog and ESPN, before his retirement in April 2017. Johnson came out of retirement in May 2021, defeating Jose Augusto by knockout in what would be his final fight of his life
Bellator confirmed reports of his death Sunday afternoon with president Scott Coker previously stating that Johnson had been battling an undisclosed illness.
Johnson fought two stints in the UFC, becoming one of the sport’s most prolific knockout artists with a one-punch strike that became infamous in the mixed martial arts community. Fighting as a welterweight in his first tour with the company, he struggled with weight misses, eventually moving up to light heavyweight and even heavyweight while competing for World Series of Fighting.
Returning to the UFC in 2014, Johnson picked up three wins and earned a shot at then-champion Daniel Cormier in May 2015. He lost that fight by rear-naked choke. After three more victories, Johnson again challenged Cormier in April 2017 but tapped out a second time to the choke.
“Rumble” announced his retirement from MMA in 2017 as UFC’s top-ranked light heavyweight. However, he ultimately returned to action in the Bellator cage four years later, knocking out Jose Augusto in May 2021 during the first round of the Bellator Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix. Illness then forced him to withdraw from his title fight with Vadim Nemkov in the semifinals.
Johnson’s career record was 23-6 with 17 victories by knockout. Outside the cage, he was convicted of domestic battery in 2008 and accused of domestic abuse in 2014, though no charges were filed in the latter incident.
Anthony Kewoa Johnson’s MMA/UFC Career
Ultimate Fighting Championship
Johnson made his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 10, knocking out Chad Reiner just thirteen seconds into the first round. He had taken the fight on less than a week’s notice, replacing an injured Steve Bruno, who had torn his rotator cuff. He was also seen in a previous video for The Ultimate Fighter trying out for season six, however for undisclosed reasons he was not on the show.
In his next bout, he faced Rich Clementi at UFC 76. He lost the fight via rear naked choke submission in round two.
After his first professional loss, Johnson then faced Tom Speer at UFC Fight Night: Florian vs. Lauzon. He won the fight via knockout early in round one.
Johnson’s next fight was against Kevin Burns, at UFC Fight Night: Silva vs. Irvin aired live on Spike TV on July 19, 2008. Johnson was repeatedly poked in the eyes throughout the bout, with Burns receiving multiple warnings. In round three Johnson would again be poked in the eye resulting in a cracked retina and was rendered unable to continue. However, referee Steve Mazzagatti controversially declared Burns the winner via TKO. Johnson appealed the loss, but it was denied due to a ‘lack of remedy’.
Titan Fighting Championships
After being released from the UFC, Johnson fought fellow UFC veteran David Branch at Titan Fighting Championships. On the day of the weigh ins for the fight, Johnson once again missed making the 186 lb limit for the middleweight division, as he weighed in at 194.2 lb, 8.2 lb overweight. Branch was notified the morning of the weight in that Johnson was not going to make weight, so as a result he weighed in at 189 lb. The bout was then agreed upon as a catchweight bout at 195 lb. This marked the fourth time in Johnson’s professional career that he had weighed in over the assigned weight limit. Johnson won the fight via unanimous decision (30–27 on all cards).
Johnson made his light heavyweight debut at Titan Fighting Championships 24 against former King of the Cage Super Heavyweight Champion Esteves Jones, Johnson won via TKO in just 51 seconds of the second round.
His Personal Life And Health
Rumble, he’s going through some health problems right now. It’s very sad,” Abdelaziz said during an ESPN interview in October. “I think, I want everybody to pray for him. Pray for Anthony. It’s not going well. He’s very strong, spiritually. But pray for him.”
Last year, Johnson shared a post on social media talking about his illness.
“Really wish I could go into detail about how ill I truly am,” Johnson wrote on Instagram. “Just know I need as many prayers as I can get and I’ll see you in 2022 God willing. Never been this afraid of anything in my life but I’ve remained strong with the support of friends and family.”
Daniel Cormier, who defeated Johnson in two UFC light heavyweight title fights, tweeted a tribute to him.
“Rest Easy my brother. For a guy who struck fear in so many peoples heart Anthony Johnson was a caring person. From random text to check ins during loss. What a person he was, Rumble will be missed. Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair. Horrible news #RIP#Rumblesquad@Anthony_Rumble,” Cormier wrote.
Johnson, who went 23-6 in MMA with 17 victories via (T)KO, is remembered for two separate stretches of time with the UFC from 2007-12 and 2014-17. His first run saw him emerge as a power-hitting welterweight prospect who pushed the limits of cutting his large frame down to 170 pounds for weigh ins. After weight management issues contributed to his exit from the UFC, he returned to the promotion at a more natural 205-pound competition weight.
During that second stint, Johnson defeated Glover Teixeira, Ryan Bader, Alexander Gustafsson and Phil Davis, and had two chances at the light heavyweight championship, both losses to Cormier.
Outside of the cage, Johnson was arrested multiple times. He served three years probation as part of a plea of no contest to a 2009 domestic violence charge in California. He was arrested in 2019 in Florida and charged with one count of battery/domestic battery. As part of a plea agreement, he completed a 12-hour anger management course. Last May, one day after defeating Augusto in what would be his final MMA fight, he was arrested at Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut and charged with identity theft for alleged use of a stolen credit cart.
Johnson’s links to reports of and arrests for domestic violence led to an indefinite UFC suspension in September 2014, while the promotion said in a statement it was “using a third-party law firm to conduct a formal investigation.” The ban was lifted that November.