Former UFC title challenger Anthony “Rumble” Johnson dies at 38

Photo Courtesy: UFC

Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, who fought for multiple titles during his career, has died.

On Sunday, reporter Ariel Helwani shared the news of his passing at the age of 38, noting that the former UFC and Bellator fighter had been battling illness for some time.

Johnson wresstled at Lassen Community College at 174 pounds.

Johnson started his career as a welterweight and fought as high as a heavyweight during his career.

He was signed by the UFC after three professional fights and debuted in the company with a 13-second knockout victory over Chad Reiner in June 2007. Johnson had several setbacks in the UFC while adding wins against Kevin Burns, Luigi Fioravanti, and Yoshiyuki Yoshida. The fight against Yoshida saw Johnson miss weight by five pounds.

His next weight miss led to his removal from the UFC. Johnson moved up to middleweight but still missed weight by ten pounds when he fought Vitor Belfort at UFC 142 in January 2012. Johnson was submitted in the fight and left the UFC after that fight.

Johnson went 5-0 outside the UFC where he fought at light heavyweight and went up to heavyweight, defeating former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski for the World Series of Fighting (now the PFL).

After three wins at WSOF, he was brought back to the UFC as a light heavyweight and went on his biggest run.

He returned with wins against Phil Davis and then a pair of vicious stoppages of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Alexander Gustafsson.

After beating Gustafsson in his home country of Sweden, Johnson was set to challenge light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones, later that year. However, Jones was stripped of the title after a hit-and-run incident in New Mexico and Johnson was matched against Daniel Cormier for the vacant championship at UFC 187.

Johnson knocked Cormier down in the fight but succumbed to Cormier’s wrestling and was submitted in the fight.

Johnson rebounded with three straight knockout wins against Jimi Manuwa, Ryan Bader, and Glover Teixeira, which earned him ‘Performance of the Night’ bonuses for all three.

Johnson earned a rematch against Cormier in April 2017 at UFC 210, where he was submitted again and announced his retirement. In retirement, he launched a CBD oil company and worked with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship in a non-fighting capacity.

In May 2021, he returned to fighting after joining Bellator as part of its Light Heavyweight Grand Prix where he knocked out Jose Augusto Azevedo before withdrawing from the rest of the Grand Prix.

Johnson had several legal controversies including being convicted of domestic battery in 2008 after pleading no-contest. He was accused of domestic abuse in 2014 by his ex-girlfriend and mother of his children. A police report came out citing the allegation against Johnson, but no charges were filed. In 2019, he was arrested on charges of domestic battery over an alleged incident with his girlfriend. The case was dismissed and charges against Johnson were dropped after agreeing to complete an anger management course.

This past January, Bellator president Scott Coker confirmed to MMA Junkie that Johnson was dealing with health issues:

Without getting too much into his medical condition, he’s got to worry just about being healthy first. He’s got to heal up and get healthy because there’s so much more in life than just fighting. I want him to have a long, healthy life, and that’s the most important thing.

Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports is reporting that Johnson died due to a rare disorder of the immune system called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis.

Johnson’s career record was 23-6 with 17 knockouts and he was awarded seven bonuses throughout his UFC career.

Johnson was 38 years old and we extend our condolences to his friends and family.

About John Pollock 4749 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.