From early career losses to issues away from The Octagon, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson has had to go through plenty of trials and tribulations during his mixed martial arts career, and after coming out of those challenges, he stands on the precipice of achieving a personal goal.
With a second chance at the UFC light-heavyweight championship in the main event of UFC 210 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo tonight, Johnson knows exactly what it would mean to have his hand raised should he beat Daniel Cormier.
“I’ve been to hell and back, and I don’t think anybody’s been to hell and back more times than I have to get right back to where I am right now, so winning the title will definitely be worth it,” Johnson said after his open workout. “It’ll be worth everything I’ve been through, good and bad.”
Riding a three-fight winning streak and having won 12 of his last 13 bouts dating back to May of 2012, Johnson knows what it feels like to have things going in a positive direction, but success has not come easy for the 33-year old native of Dublin, Georgia.
Johnson went 7-4 in his first stint in the UFC, and a submission loss to Vitor Belfort in a UFC 142 bout in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, prompted his release from the world’s foremost mixed martial arts organization.
“When I got cut from UFC the first time, that was definitely one of the lowest because I felt like everybody was looking at me as being the guy that was a loser,” Johnson said. “I didn’t make weight and I lost the fight. Those six, seven hours on the flight home from Brazil were the longest of my life, and it was the flight that changed my life and my career.”
Then, there was Johnson’s return to UFC in 2014, which after two straight wins, was put on hold when he was suspended following an investigation into domestic violence allegations. After two months, the civil case was dismissed and Johnson resumed his career with the UFC.
“Being accused of stuff that I didn’t do made society look at me like I was a monster, and I’m like, ‘Come on, dude. I’m not dumb like that,’” Johnson said. “Those were the lowest points in my career. Not even just my career, in my life, but I’ve overcome. That’s why I say anything people have to say, anything people throw at me, I know I can face it and beat it.”
Although Johnson has a chance at redemption, the last thing he is focused on heading into the rematch with Cormier, who earned a submission victory over Rumble in the first meeting on May 23, 2015, is trying to change people’s opinions.
Instead, his mindset is where it needs to be, on doing what his necessary to beat Cormier.
“My family and my friends and my teammates, they know who I am,” Johnson said. “They know what kind of guy I am. I might go out there and knock people out, but do you know how many people come up to me and said, ‘Dude, you’re actually a nice guy. You’re kind of scary whenever you fight, but you’re a nice guy.’”
“The only thing that’s relevant right now is what’s sitting over to my right, and that’s the title, the belt that I’m going to get. I’m just looking forward to it.”