“So very sad,” Anik told MMA Fighting. “I was just like, ‘No, this can’t be true.’ He had acknowledged that it was scary what he was dealing with however many months ago publicly, and yet it seemed like one of the diseases he had wasn’t necessarily fatal, but that didn’t dovetail how scared this larger than life individual Anthony Johnson was. I was always scared that he was scared.
“This just felt like a whole crashing down of everything that happened the night prior with Alex Pereira, and it just brought everything back down to earth. I used to say before Francis Ngannou that this was the biggest power threat in UFC history and he will always be on Francis’ heels right there for me, and that’s a big part of his UFC legacy just how frightening of an individual he was to fight, yet that flies into the face of everything he was as a human being. He was just so gentle and gracious with everybody.”
“Rumble” compiled a pro record of 23-6, which included two stints in the UFC, along with a run in the former World Series of Fighting, and a victory in his final bout under the Bellator banner. Johnson competed mostly as a welterweight in his first run with the UFC, and returned to the promotion in 2014 as a light heavyweight, where he earned two title shots against Daniel Cormier.
While Johnson was ferocious inside of the cage, he was a gracious and positive presence outside of it, and in Anik’s eyes, the loss leaves a big hole in the community.
“I’ll never forget being at the Patriots Super Bowl against the Rams and I posted a picture of me and my twin brother, and he reached out and was like, ‘That’s crazy that there are two of you.’ And I was like, ‘Dude, imagine if there were two ‘Rumbles’.’ As I said on my podcast this week, I can’t believe we have no ‘Rumbles’ in a physical sense,” Anik said. “It’s just an unquantifiable loss for the MMA community and it’s just really, really, really sad.
“I was with [Daniel Cormier] five minutes before the news broke, and can you imagine what it was like for him? They’re forever linked and my heart goes out to the Blackzilian family and everyone that knew Rumble even better than I did.”
Anik remembers Johnson as an athlete who treated everyone he was around with the utmost respect, including the first time the two interacted during Anik’s first time being an official member of the UFC team over a decade ago.
“At UFC 142, January 2012, Jan. 14, I’ll never forget because six days later I called my first ever UFC show in Nashville, but the first official event I worked for the UFC was UFC 142 when he fought Vitor Belfort,” Anik explained. “He gave me time after the loss, and if you remember there was all of the weight issues, the fight ended up at 197 pounds, or whatever it was, but I just always enjoyed being in that man’s presence.
“He always treated our staff like gold — Heidi Dean and everybody else, the late Suzy Friton our makeup artist, you can be sure Rumble was posting when she passed away — and [he had] just a heart of gold, man. And thankfully, he made such an impression that we’re all going to go out of our way to make sure he’s remembered.”