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Anthony Johnson can relate to Jon Jones hitting 'rock bottom': 'He is where I was'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LAS VEGAS -- Anthony Johnson hosted the fan Q&A before UFC 184 weigh-ins back in February. The main topic of conversation at the time was Jon Jones and his positive cocaine test.

"Rumble" defended Jones adamantly then and his mind has not changed now -- not even after Jones was arrested last month on a felony hit-and-run charge.

"I still feel the same way, because people will smile at you in your face and then talk sh*t behind your back," Johnson said Thursday at UFC 187 media day at MGM Grand. "And I hate that. People wouldn't say that stuff if Jon was there, I'll tell you that. They'll say it because he's not there."

Johnson stands to benefit from Jones being suspended and stripped of the light heavyweight title. "Rumble" meets Daniel Cormier in the UFC 187 main event here Saturday with the vacant belt on the line.

But Johnson gets no enjoyment from watching Jones' issues play out in headlines. He himself has been the object of controversy. The UFC suspended Johnson last September after Bloody Elbow reported the mother of his children accused Johnson of hitting her in a 2012 incident as part of a lawsuit.

The UFC reinstated Johnson from his suspension in November after conducting an investigation. The civil case against him was dismissed.

"The sh*t ppl will say and the lengths ppl will go just to tell a F*cking lie is ridiculous," Johnson wrote on Facebook at the time "That's all I'm going to say and thank you all for the support and positive feedback that I'm getting."

In 2009, Johnson was arrested on domestic violence charges involving another woman. He eventually pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge and got probation. According to a report in the San Jose Mercury News, the woman told police that Johnson picked her up by her armpits and slammed her to the ground and also put her in a headlock and dragged her up a flight of stairs.

Johnson told's Brett Okamoto that the previous incident in 2009 was not physical and his plea was the product of youth.

"I didn't understand the law as much as I should have in 2009," Johnson told the website. "I pled no-contest because that's what my lawyer told me to do. I wanted it to be over with. The courts kept pushing it back, pushing it back, and I said, 'Is there any way we can get this done, today?' I didn't know that saying no-contest would be taken in the public as, 'I did everything she said.'

"We were both just young. Neither one of us got physical with each other. We were just doing whatever we could to get under each other's skin. To this day, we still talk. We've both apologized."

Johnson has also had professional issues. Early in his career, he fought at 170 pounds and struggled to make the weight constantly. Johnson was cut by the UFC in January 2012 after losing by submission to Vitor Belfort. The fight was scheduled to be at 185 pounds; Johnson weighed 197.

"Rumble" described that point in his life as being the lowest of the low -- kind of like what Jones is going through now.

"He is where I was," Johnson said. "He hit rock bottom. And he'll get over that bump. He'll be fine. His family is still, in my opinion, a strong family. Strong values."

Johnson, now 31, constantly talks about maturity. He believes that's what Jones needs as well and knows that he'll need even more of it if he beats Cormier for the title Saturday.

"There's one person on top, but you got a million people trying to bring you down," Johnson said. "Of course it gets worse. That's when maturity kicks in and you have to learn how to separate yourself from those people. You can't react to what they say. You can't react to whatever they do. You have to have positive people around you so they can push those negative people away."

"Rumble" thinks Jones will come back and he's more than willing to give him a title shot if he's champion. Johnson sees something of a former version of himself in the 27-year-old.

"I turned it into a positive by letting it be a learning experience," Johnson said. "If you don't do right, bad things happen. This was an opportunity that I had by the UFC and probably from all the dumb stuff I did younger caught up with me, so I lost that fight [against Belfort]. I had to get smarter."

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