One of the scariest men to ever step in a UFC Octagon will be making his return next year.
Anthony “Rumble” Johnson had the type of punching power that is usually only seen in movies. One could only think of a few fighters in MMA history, or maybe even all of combat sports, who could match his devastating striking power.
Johnson began his career in lighter weight classes, showing toughness and well-rounded skills at welterweight (2006-2011) and middleweight (2012). He’d eventually move up as his body filled out, even scoring a decision win over former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in 2013 before eventually settling into the light heavyweight division until his retirement.
Johnson always said if he returned, he’d do it as a heavyweight. He never shut the door on making a comeback, and now per his manager Ali Abdelaziz, Johnson has re-entered the USADA testing pool to be eligible for UFC competition once more.
He’s scored dominant wins over the likes of Ryan Bader, Alexander Gustafsson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and many others. While he never won the championship, falling twice against Daniel Cormier in pursuit, he was always an exciting fighter who could end a fight at any moment. After his second loss to Cormier, he announced his retirement in 2017 and walked away with a record of 22-6.
Johnson’s return would be perfect timing. He’d make a great addition to the heavyweight division, which has many other power punchers such as Francis Ngannou, Junior dos Santos, Derrick Lewis, Alistair Overeem, and champion Stipe Miocic.
Johnson has already been eying Overeem and JDS and he may even like to get another crack at Cormier, who has also moved back up to the heavyweight division since Johnson left. Johnson was once in the running to fight Jon Jones, a fantasy matchup that never happened due to Jones’s personal issues. The fight may still have a chance of materializing now, as Jones has long been speculated to move up eventually.
Johnson originally left the UFC to focus on a job in the marijuana industry upon the substances increasing acceptance and legal sale in various territories across the US. While he was successful, some claim the itch to fight never truly leaves a fighter. Johnson is only 35 years old, and with some fighters finding success until their mid-40s, he definitely has a few years of fight left in him at least.
He debuted in MMA in 2006 and would make it to the UFC years later, having two tenures. The first was good but plagued with weight misses as he tried to find the right division to accommodate his growing frame. After some time outside the promotion, he’d return to the heavier classes where he’d truly cultivate his “Rumble” persona.
Johnson’s return adds excitement to the promotion and sets up a ton of potential fantasy matches. Who should Johnson fight first? Does he have a chance of winning the heavyweight championship and finally securing the one accolade he’s always wanted?