Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson, MMA Legend, Dead at 38

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Anthony Johnson, a Bellator fighter and two-time UFC title challenger, died on Sunday. He was 38 years old.

Bellator MMA confirmed the news with sources close to Johnson. Social media received an influx of messages and tributes to Johnson in the wake of the news of his death.

The cause of death has yet to be announced.

Anthony Johnson is known for his two UFC stints from 2007-2012 and 2014-2017. During his first stint with the promotion, Johnson became a burgeoning welterweight prospect with unmatched knockout power. Then, during his second run, he fought as a light heavyweight.

During Johnson’s second UFC run that he defeated the likes of Glover Teixeira, Ryan Bader, Alexander Gustafsson, and Phil Davis. He also had two shots at the light heavyweight championship.

He announced his retirement after a 2017 title fight loss to Daniel Cormier. However, he returned to competition in 2021 and fought once for Bellator, defeating Jose Augusto by second-round knockout.

In October 2021, Johnson was supposed to fight Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov as part of a tournament. However, he was forced to withdraw from that contest due to an undisclosed illness.

Anthony Johnson’s pro MMA record was 23-6 with 17 wins coming by way of KO/TKO.

MMA Fighters, Fans React to the News of Anthony Johnson’s Death

Sports journalist Ariel Helwani wrote: “Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson passed away today. He was 38 years old. Johnson had been battling an illness for quite some time. One of the hardest hitters and most talented fighters in MMA history. Gone way too soon. May he rest in peace.”

Daniel Cormier, a former UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champion, posted a touching tribute on his Twitter page. He spoke to Johnson’s dependability and loyalty as a friend.

“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.”

Another professional fighter, Derek Brunson, posted a tribute to fellow fighter and friend Anthony Johnson. “Always worked to be a better man. Life can be short . Never forget to enjoy and appreciate! RIP @Anthony_Rumble !#RUMBLEsquad.”

He was the #1 ranked light heavyweight contender in official UFC rankings. He was ranked #2 in the world by Sherdog and ESPN, before his retirement in April 2017. 

After martial arts competition, Johnson launched a CBD oil company, Competitive Body Development. Then, in early 2019, Johnson was appointed as the head of fighter relations for Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.

Then, Johnson came out of retirement in May 2021 and defeated Jose Augusto by knockout. Johnson first entered mixed martial arts at age 20, after a friend suggested trying the sport due to his wrestling background.