Few fighters have gone through as tempestuous a time as Anthony Johnson has over the past few years. Over the past eight years, he has experienced many highs and even greater lows, including an exit from the UFC and a suspension from the promotion ahead when he was on the cusp of earning a title shot for the first time.
Given the troubles that have plagued Johnson over the past few months, including a civil case against him for domestic abuse which got him suspended for several months until the case was dismissed, he could not help but feel appreciative that he is in such a historic fight in the UFC.
"You appreciate things a lot more whenever somebody is trying to take it away from you," Johnson told MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani. "I'm at the point in my life where, regardless of what I think, I'd be more appreciative of the finer things, instead of just crazy stuff."
During his first stint with the UFC, Johnson used to cut 40-50 pounds just to make the welterweight cutoff. During that time, he compiled a 7-4 record in the promotion but was cut following his loss to Vitor Belfort - a fight which he weighed in at 197-pounds.
"After the Vitor Belfort fight, I stopped listening to the world and started to listen to what I needed to listen to. I think I was very selfish with the Vitor fight, and I was just young, dumb and didn't want to pay attention. I thought I knew it all.
"Obviously I didn't."
Then, over a glass of wine on the return flight home, Johnson decided, along with his coach Henry Hooft, that he would go "all out" and try his luck in the higher weight classes.
"I had to make the decision to push myself and give it my all, and dedicate myself to fighting. I vowed to do my best and not give up, and I haven't."
Since 2012, Johnson has been an entirely different fighter. He compiled a six-fight win streak outside of the UFC before getting invited back to join the promotion's light-heavyweight division. He has since picked up impressive wins over Phil Davis and Antônio Rogério Nogueira.
Given the obstacles that he has had to overcome, Johnson believes it has only strengthened his resolve to succeed.
"It has been a journey, but I'm still here. I didn't give up. That alone should speak volumes on who I am."