Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (7-2, 4-2 UFC) isn’t worried about a title shot. He doesn’t care if he faces Mike Swick next, or Dan Hardy, although he wouldn’t mind Hardy coming to America on his turf for a face off. “Rumble” isn’t concerned if he needs one, two, or three more wins to get a shot at the UFC Welterweight Crown.
What he does concentrate and focus on is his next opponent. Once the call is received and he knows who the lucky guy is, then Anthony knows it’s time to take that next step up the ladder towards his goal of being the best 170 pound fighter on the planet.
Johnson is a great wrestler and a collegiate national champion, but it has been his highlight reel knockouts that have been his signature in the UFC. Every time he steps into the Octagon, fans are getting to see even more versatile striking from the 6’2″ Welterweight, as showcased with his sick head kick KO of Kevin Burns in their rematch.
PRO MMA (promma.info) caught up with Anthony today to talk about everything from The Ultimate Fighter to wanting to fight Dan Hardy on U.S. soil:
PRO MMA: You had a great performance in your last fight against Luigi Fioravanti, who is a tough guy but you dominated him and following his loss, he was released from the UFC. How does it feel to know that not only did you knock him out, but also knocked him out of the organization?
Anthony Johnson: I have no idea, you know, it surprised me that he was dropped from the UFC. He’s tough, he’s good. But, it’s their organization so they can do what they want to do, but it surprised me that they did cut somebody like him.
PRO MMA: You also were supposed to be a cast member on TUF 6 right?
Anthony Johnson: Yeah I went out for it you know what I’m saying, but I don’t think they wanted to have another Gabe Ruediger you know? With my size… It’s not difficult for me, to make 170 but it’s not easy, and I just don’t think they wanted to do that to me, my image, or do that to the organization overall. Somebody may go in there and sometimes they can’t make weight, and I’m sure that society might look at the UFC as a joke because they had one person on there that was a joke and couldn’t make weight, what are they doing letting two people on there that can’t make weight? They don’t want to make it a regular thing. I’m glad they didn’t send me on that show, my contract is better now.
PRO MMA: How do you think you would have handled living in the house with no phone, no internet?
Anthony Johnson: Man, I probably would have killed myself!
PRO MMA: Speaking of The Ultimate Fighter, another fighter you pretty much knocked out of the UFC and nearly retired was Tommy Speer. He was a favorite throughout the show and had a lot of hype coming into the fight between you two. What does it mean to you to win in such dominating fashion like you did against Speer?
Anthony Johnson: Actually going against Tommy, I was kind of nervous. They had a bunch of hype built up behind this guy, he was supposed to be so strong. Right before I went in there to fight I told myself “I just got to do this shit.” Fighting Tommy was great in my opinion. I just went out there and let it all loose. It is what it is. When they cut Tommy it didn’t actually surprise me, because when I fought him and saw his skills, I knew he wouldn’t last long in the UFC. He’s tough, I just don’t think he’s ever been hit by anybody like me. As far as him retiring out of the sport, I think he had one more fight after me. I think he won, but I’m not sure.
PRO MMA: With MMA growing so fast, everybody has an opinion, and there have been a lot of threads about you on the MMA sites. Do you ever get on there and read what people are saying about you?
Anthony Johnson: Every now and then. Not much. I do go on there to see what’s new and who’s saying what. But I don’t really let it get to me, you know what I mean? Just go in there to see which fights people are talking about, or if I didn’t watch a fight, I’ll go in there and just read about the fight. Everybody has a different opinion about stuff, so it’s cool to actually see that stuff and read about it.
PRO MMA: There is always a lot of talk about your next fight, and a lot of fans would like to see you against Mike Swick. Has Joe Silva or the UFC contacted you about a potential opponent in the near future?
Anthony Johnson: Not yet, not yet. If I fight Mike, I fight Mike, if I don’t, I don’t. You know what I mean? We’re both in this business together, we got the same job, and that’s to fight. We got the same boss, and we do it because we love it, and we’re both on the same trail of wanting to be the champ one day. I’m pretty sure if the fans want to see it, if the buzz is getting around, the UFC will try to hook it up sooner or later. I’m not in a rush to fight Mike, we both time and have a long career ahead of us.
PRO MMA: Who would you like to get a hold of next?
Anthony Johnson: It don’t matter. I wouldn’t mind fighting Dan Hardy, but I don’t think he wants to come to the U.S. to fight. I don’t think he’ll come to the U.S. and fight me. He’s a good fighter, don’t get me wrong, but he’s always fighting on his turf. How about he come over and fight on my turf and see how he does on American soil [laughs]?
PRO MMA: There was a lot of hype after his KO of Markham, and that’s been the knock on Rory, his over committing…
Anthony Johnson: Rory, he made a mistake. He kept his hands down, and every fighter does that. Everybody does that when they fight, they leave their hands down when they punch sometimes, and Dan just happened to catch him at the right time when his hands were down, and that’s what happens when you’re fighting. Everybody does it, even when I punch, I look at some of the pictures that the UFC takes, and my hands are down, and I always try to remind myself to keep my hands up. The one person I think that does that the best when they punch at keeping their hands up, is Thiago Alves. When I look at his pictures, and when he throws a jab, a left jab, his right hand is still up by his chin protecting it. If anybody has that on lockdown, it’s Thiago.
PRO MMA: If you were to get a title shot tomorrow and stepped into the Octagon against GSP, what do you think you could bring unique to the table that we haven’t seen that would give him problems?
Anthony Johnson: I don’t think he’s faced a puncher like me before. GSP is just as athletic as I am, and I think that’s what would give each of us problems, just with our athletic ability. There’s no telling. GSP is crafty, he’s good, he’s worked his ass off… no telling dog, I can’t even say what it would be like. I just think it would be back and forth to be honest with you.
PRO MMA: How close do you think you are to getting a title shot?
Anthony Johnson: Not even close. I’m just fighting, this is what I do, this is my career. A title shot will come when I deserve it, whenever I put in the time. But until then, I’m not even trying to worry about a title shot. I just take it one fight at a time.
PRO MMA: Outside of your physical attributes, your strengths also appear to be your mental readiness and positive attitude. Despite the controversial first fight with Burns, and a severe eye injury following that fight, you always kept an upbeat and positive attitude during interviews. How important is that mental approach to the fight game and how does it help you?
Anthony Johnson: I think it helps me out a lot, and I think it helps the sport out a lot. A lot of people already think that we are wild animals, just going in there and beating the mess out of each other. For me to act the way I did on how the fight got stopped, and just me keeping my cool, played a big part on making this sport look better, and myself, and fighters overall. I think that I did try to build the sport up to be more than what society makes it out to be.
PRO MMA: We got to see a devastating head kick in the second Burns fight that ended his night. How important is working and training with a fighter like Cung Le in helping you develop and refine your stand up arsenal?
Anthony Johnson: You know I’ve always tried to kick, but it wasn’t the right kind of kick. Working with Cung, and my coach Alan and Josh, all that played out perfect. Without those guys, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do right now. Since I came with them, a lot has opened up about me. A lot of people thought I was just a striker, but now, obviously you can see that I use my hands, I use my wrestling more. I could always wrestle, I just never showed it. When people fight, they want to test out their hands, that’s usually the first thing they want to do. I guess they thought that since I was a beginner in the UFC and my record was so small, they could just run over me. I showed them to not take me for granted.
PRO MMA: So how is the jiu jitsu and grappling coming along?
Anthony Johnson: It’s good so far, I’m training. I’m not going to say I like jiu jitsu, but I do it!
PRO MMA: We’ve seen guys like Koscheck fall in love with his hands, and not utilize his wrestling like he has in the past. Do you think that once you get that much confidence in your hands, that it’s easy to forget about the wrestling, or is that always in the back of your mind?
Anthony Johnson: It’s always in the back of your mind because it’s like second nature. To go to your wrestling when you need to. I don’t get over confident in my hands. I think my hands are weak but I know they can knock you out. I don’t think I’m such a great striker like everybody thinks I am. I know that if I hit you it’s going to hurt. I’ve actually been stunned before but nobody knew it. I was actually stunned during the second fight with Kevin. We both threw stiff jabs at the same time and I can remember that we both connected and we both took like three steps backwards and I was like “Damn, he hit me”, you know what I mean? I felt it for like three seconds. After that I was fine, but you know everybody gets caught and gets stunned when they fight.
PRO MMA: I appreciate you taking the time out to talk to us Anthony. Do you have any shout out’s you would like to send out?
Anthony Johnson: Yeah, I’d like to thank you guys for the interview, my boys from Knoxx, Tapout, my team, my coaches, and my fans. Without them I couldn’t do what I do.
By: Denny Hodge