Anthony “Rumble” Johnson started off his UFC career with a bang as he knocked out Chad Reiner in 13 seconds flat. Unfortunately for him, in his second UFC outing he was choked out by the much more experienced Rich Clementi. Following that, he bounced back with another first round knockout, this time over Tommy Speer at “UFC Fight Night 13.”
Then in Johnson’s next fight he received the now infamous pokes in the eye (five times to be exact) and ended up losing an extremely controversial third round TKO. However, Johnson got revenge in his next fight with a vicious head kick knockout of poke-master Kevin Burns last December. “Rumble’s” most recent bout was in February, when he made another first round casualty out of Luigi Fioravanti.
PRO MMA (promma.info) recently caught up with the dangerous striker to see if he was ready to get back in the cage after a recent knee injury. Anthony also talked about how he thinks he would match up with a high level wrestler, what he thought about another recent eye poke incident, his opinion on the title fights at UFC 100, and much more.
Anthony Johnson interview
PRO MMA: Anthony, how are you.
ANTHONY JOHNSON: Not too bad, how about you?
PRO MMA: Not too bad. Now you were supposed to fight at the Ultimate Fighter Finale but you hurt your knee. What exactly happened with that?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: I was training and I tore my meniscus last year and I got too lazy and just wanted to keep training and not go to the doctor about it. I thought it would heal on its own and I just re-injured it and that was it.
PRO MMA: Is it better, do you have another opponent in the future, or is it still healing?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: It’s better as far as like I can run and take a little punishment on it, but I haven’t really been kicking like I used to. I haven’t been really pushing it as far as to see how much I can kick, but it’s alright so far.
PRO MMA: How exactly did you get into fighting? A lot of fighters came from wrestling, they came from karate, how exactly did you get into fighting?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: I actually wrestled all my life. A lot of people don’t know that. They just think I’m a striker, but my wrestling is better than my striking, but I never show it unless I have to. I had just got out of college and was living with my girlfriend at the time, and my neighbor’s dad his own gym in Susanville, California; Rudy Valentine. And his gym was called Iron Horse Gym. His son was my neighbor and just kept asking me to come to his dad’s gym and Rudy kept asking me to come to his gym to try it out. And I kept thinking we’re from this small town and really don’t know anything, and my girlfriend at the time told me to “try it out, and if you don’t like it, don’t go back and if you do, stick with it.” And I went one day and now I’m doing an interview with you.
PRO MMA: You are known mostly for your stand up and you’ve been able to show your striking skills in almost every fight. How do you see a fight going if you face a predominant wrestler like Josh Koscheck or Matt Hughes?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: I still see it going my way. It’s going to be really hard for them to take me down even though they are great wrestlers. I remember watching Josh Koscheck when he won his first national championship in college. I think he went to Edinborough University and he was a monster in wrestling. He actually wrestled the same weight class I did in college, 174 lbs. Josh is sick, and Matt Hughes is a big strong guy. But if he can strike he ain’t gonna’ be able to take me down, you know what I mean? So, out of the two, the only one that would really be a threat to me would be Josh Koscheck. But I still think I would match up good with either guy.
PRO MMA: Most of you fights have ended in knockout and all of your fights in the UFC have been finished. Why do you think you’ve been able to have such explosive fights? All the fans seem to love you, you always seem to put on a show. Why do you think that is?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: I don’t know man I just go out there and do my thing every fight. That’s the way I’ve always been my whole life with anything. I hate to lose and I just like to give it my all. I hate losing a damn game of checkers dog. And if I lose that I get pissed, just think about how it is if I lose a fight. I’m hard on myself more than anybody else is hard on me, you know what I mean? I know my limits and I know what I can do as far as my ability. So every time I fight, even if I’m out of shape like I fought against Rich Clementi out of shape, I still go out there and give it my all cause you never know what’s going to happen. As long as you give it your all, you don’t have anything to be ashamed of. So I always go out there and give it my all, and I just like to punch people in the mouth. Wrestling gets boring, just taking people down, laying on top of them and just trying to submit them and that stuff is boring, and you get booed really quick, and you don’t get many fans when you do all of that, so I try to keep it entertaining and I try to keep it standing so the fans can get what they want and hopefully I can get knockout of the night, you know what I mean?
PRO MMA: Yeah, get that bonus.
ANTHONY JOHNSON: Yeah I always try to go for that bonus. Actually, I like the bonus, after my fights I hope I get the bonus, but then when I go out there and fight I don’t even think about the bonus and before the fight I don’t think about the bonus, I’m just like whatever happens, happens. So if I get the bonus then I get it, and if I don’t there are plenty of other fights I have, so I don’t try and really think about getting the bonuses and stuff.
PRO MMA: I have to ask, did you watch UFC 99?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: Who was that?
PRO MMA: That was Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva.
ANTHONY JOHNSON: Yeah.
PRO MMA: There was a fight on that card, Mirko CroCop vs. Mostapha Al-Turk, which had a horrible poke in the eye. Of course you know how that goes. What are your thoughts on how that all went down? Just in your fight you got poked in the eye and there was no way to defend yourself. Do you think the UFC needs to change something in the way they score those fights? That went down as a loss on your record and you had no way to defend yourself?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: Well CroCop only poked him once, and the fight should have been stopped. But they should have gave whatever his name is how much ever time he needed to recuperate, you know what I mean?
PRO MMA: Right.
ANTHONY JOHNSON: Right, but his poke wasn’t nearly as crazy as mine. I got poked in the eye five times by somebody who said their hand was broke. He was in the middle of the exchanges where he just happened to poke the guy in the eye, and that’s just what happens sometimes. But me, I got poked five times, and there’s no excuse you know? But I do think in cases like that they need to have a replay or something to show what really happened. And a lot of these eyes get put out by injuries caused by other fighters and it’s not fair to them because they worked hard for something they believe in and what they love. And if they got put out because they sustained an injury by somebody else’s mistake I think is screwed up.
PRO MMA: Also at UFC 99 Marcus Davis fought Dan Hardy. It was a very back and forth kind of fight and kind of a controversial fight. In a previous interview with us, you actually said you wouldn’t mind fighting somebody like Dan Hardy. Is that still a fight you’re interested in?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: I’m interested in every fight to be honest with you. Dan Hardy is cook, he’s good, I like his character. He’s a hardcore fighter and a good stand up guy. That fight with him and Marcus Davis, I really didn’t catch it all; like maybe six minutes of the fight total, the end of the second round and some of the third. But from what it looked like those two really went to war and yeah I would love to fight Dan Hardy or whoever they put in front of me. I’ve got a lot of respect for every fighter in my division. So it really don’t matter to me. If they give me Dan, they give me Dan, if they don’t, then oh well.
PRO MMA: The big news for the next Ultimate Fighter is Kimbo Slice is going to be on there with Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans as the coaches. What are your thoughts on Kimbo and his whole journey and being the star of EliteXC and now being on The Ultimate Fighter?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: Kimbo man, a lot of people doubted Kimbo because after his little flash knockout with Seth Petruzelli. You know the man is still new to the game. He doesn’t have nearly as much as experience. He’s used to backyard brawling, you know what I mean? But he still has potential, you know, you can see it. He still has potential and I think he can be a great asset to the UFC and the sport. I don’t have anything against him. Of course, when you’ve got somebody like Kimibo, of his caliber, and they pump him up to be such a great athlete and a great superstar, which he is, but also you’ve got to have something to back it up to. You know, I want to say you can’t go down on one punch, but everybody gets hit sometimes in that right spot and they go down, so nobody’s perfect. But I think Kimbo will do fine with more training. You know what I mean?
PRO MMA: Right.
ANTHONY JOHNSON: I don’t think they should throw him in there with somebody like Frank Mir right off the bat, you know what I mean, or Minotauro right off the bat. If he gets a fight like that then… I mean he has a puncher’s chance but it’s going to be really tough for him, you know. These heavyweight nowadays are no joke. Guys like Cain Velasquez from AKA, he’s a top contender in my opinion, a future heavyweight champ in the UFC, and if he took two shots from Cheick Kongo right off the bat and it damn near knocked his head off. But he still came in there and did what he had to do to beat him. I think if Kimbo took two shots like that he would be in more trouble because he doesn’t have that experience like Cain does you know, that knowledge of wrestling and second instinct of what to do, you know. But I think Kimbo will do fine in the long run.
PRO MMA: Speaking of Frank Mir, UFC 100 is coming up on July 11th. It’s supposed to be a huge event for the UFC, two main events: Georges St. Pierre vs. Thiago Alves in your weight division for the welterweight championship. Who do you see taking that bout and who do you see taking Mir vs. Lesner?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: Oh man, GSP is the champ and he’s the champ for a reason and I don’t doub him, but I don’t doubt Thiago either. Thiago has lightning in both hands and both feet and both knees and so… GSP is probably the more athletic out of the two. If you want to go power and knockout ability you have to go with Thiago. So right now I can’t really pick. But if I really really had no choice who to pick and had a gun up side my head I would say GSP because he is champ and I never doubt a champ because they’re the champ for a reason. But in this fight it can go either way. Whoever trains the hardest and lands the biggest shot and of course who has the best game plan is always going to win so I don’t know. So we’ll see, that’s 50/50 in my book. And Frank Mir and Brock – Brock isn’t going to be dumb enough to go down to the ground with Frank you know, and I’m sure his stand up has improved over the months. And Frank Mir’s stand up has really improved as you saw against Minotauro. I don’t know man. If Frank gets hit like Brock Lesnar hit Heath Herring, then it’s gonna be a wrap. If you get hit by somebody that makes you roll backwards, then you’re in a lot of trouble buddy. So we’ll see. If Brock hits the ground with Frank, I think he’ll be done for. But Brock’s wrestling is so solid, I think he could get out of Frank’s submissions too. His wrestling base is so good. He’s a former NCAA champion. But we’ll see. I think Brock too is going to be fine in the UFC. But as far as him being the champ, I don’t think he deserves to be the champ yet. Especially with all the guys in the line up you know. After his third fight he had a… after his second fight he had a what, a title, a title shot you know, and that’s not fair to the guys who worked their ass off, but it is what it is. It’s not my business. It’s Dana White and the Fertitta’s business and they do what they gotta do to keep the business alive. So in that fight, I’m still gonna go with Frank Mir on this one.
PRO MMA: Say you have to fight tomorrow. You get to call out anyone in the welterweight division that you want, who do you want to fight?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: I don’t know man. I just love to fight and there’s nobody really in the welterweight division that I wouldn’t fight but there’s nobody that I have any beef against either. If I’m going to beat up anybody bad it’s gonna be John Howard and that’s it.
PRO MMA: Last thing for you before we let you go, just something for the fans, what’s your favorite food?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: (With no hesitation whatsoever) Gummy Bears.
PRO MMA: Gummy Bears?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: Gummy Bears dog, I can’t get enough of them. I eat a bag a day.
PRO MMA: And what about favorite movie?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: I don’t know, I got a few and a few favorite movies that I have. I love both Transformers and I love Scarface, know what I mean. I love that. I like a lot of action movies and comedies, you know what I’m saying. Like I love All About the Benjamins and the Rush Hours. I think I love all the Rush Hours except Rush Hour 3. I love movies like that. There’s a different variety of movies that I like. I can’t say which one is my absolute favorite but I love them all.
PRO MMA: Lastly, what’s a CD you have in your car or a song you have on your iPod that you might be a little embarrassed about; something they would not think Anthony “Rumble” Johnson has on his iPod?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: Oh man, I don’t know dog. My music is good. I ain’t embarrassed about nothing really. I don’t have any country, I’ll tell you that. And no punk rock or anything like that. But I don’t have anything against it. The only thing I don’t listen to is country and opera. But as far as music I would be embarrassed about that I listen to… nothing. I remember at one point I used to have Hulk Hogan’s theme music, his theme music from back in the day.
PRO MMA: That’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
ANTHONY JOHNSON: That’s old school though you know. I don’t think a lot of these young cats know about that old WWF back in the day music. But I’m not embarrassed about it, but that’s like the oldest thing you will find on my iPod. Other than that I listen to pretty much everything.
PRO MMA: Well Anthony we want to thank you for your time, we hope your knee heals up great. Is there any sponsors you would like to thank before we let you go?
ANTHONY JOHNSON: Yeah, I would like to thank Tapout, I love them to death. Knoxx,. BSN, Triple X Racing Fuel, my team and coaching staff, Cung Le, Josh Thomson, and all those guys. My homeboy Eddie Lore. Extreme Bully Pit Bulls. Just the whole MMA community man, I want to thank everybody for supporting me.
PRO MMA: Like we said, thank you for taking the time out of your busy day. We hope to see you back in the cage real soon and we can talk to you about who your next opponent is.
ANTHONY JOHNSON: Alright, I appreciate that man.
PRO MMA: No problem, have a good one.
ANTHONY JOHNSON: You too.
By: Tim Thompson