Former Two-Time UFC Title Challenger Anthony “Rumble” Johnson Dies From Unknown Illness

Image Credit: Twitter

The mixed martial arts community has lost one of its brightest lights as former UFC light heavyweight title contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson passed away at the age of 38 years old. Multiple media reports shared the news, and prominent MMA fighters sent heartfelt messages on social media. After letting the world know he was suffering from an undisclosed illness, Johnson had been inactive last year.

“Really wish I could go into detail about how ill I truly am,” Johnson wrote in an Instagram post in September 2021. “Just know I need as many prayers as I can get and I’ll see you in 2022 God willing. Never been this afraid of anything in my life but I’ve remained strong with the support of friends and family.

“Not asking for anything but prayers. See you in 2022 hopefully. This is gonna be a battle and I’m gonna have to dig deeper than I ever have before,” he wrote in the caption.

By October 2021, Johnson revealed a little more information when he shared a video via a post saying that he had to get bacteria pumped from his stomach. He included some pictures and videos from the hospital, including one of a CT scanning machine.

By May of this year, Johnson gave another update that sounded like things were turning around for the Georgia native.

“Dr just gave me good news … Big improvements and that bill of health for now is,” his caption read with a checkmark and chart going up. But the fighter didn’t share anything else about his health, and now the world mourns his passing.

Johnson fought former two-division UFC champion Daniel “DC” Cormier twice for the UFC light heavyweight championship,  losing both attempts by rear naked choke submissions. He holds knockout wins over notable MMA former title contender Alexander Gustafsson, former Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader and former UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira.

After retiring in 2017, Johnson returned to the sport in UFC’s rival organization, Bellator MMA. He defeated Josè Augusto Azevedo with a second-round knockout during the light heavyweight world Grand Prix quarterfinals. He eventually dropped out of the tournament to deal with illness.

Johnson was a full-fledged entrepreneur breeding a kennel of specialty bulldogs called bullies with his Rumbletime Kennels. He also moved into the cannabis industry after his UFC retirement in 2017, opening a medical marijuana enterprise to stem the usage of prescription pills. The business was based in Canada with plans to eventually open in the U.S.

“We’re doing it for all the right reasons,” Johnson said to MMAJunkie in 2017. “It’s not about the money. We’d rather help society out the right way, instead of trying to put pills into their body.

“I have somebody close to me that’s dealing with cancer. I’ve seen them take 10 pills every three or four hours for the aches and pains and sickness, and it might go away for a little, but they still feel bad. I’ve seen them take a hit, and all of a sudden, 10 minutes later, they’re like, ‘I don’t feel anything. I feel great. I’m ready to go and run. I’m ready to have a good time.’ That’s what I want to see.”

Johnson was also an executive with the burgeoning Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships in the Fighter Relations Department. The world lost a star in “Rumble,” a tremendous athlete, advocate and entrepreneur.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.