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Rumble, Is That You?: Anthony Johnson totally transformed after recovering from serious illness

Anthony Johnson looks like he could return to the welterweight division.

Anthony Johnson during a Q&A session at UFC 184 in 2015.
Anthony Johnson during a Q&A session at UFC 184 in 2015.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Few fighters have had the kind of success Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson has had in drastically different weight divisions. The man holds a win over Dan Hardy at welterweight and a victory over Andrei Arlovski at heavyweight.

Most notably, Johnson worked his way to two UFC light heavyweight title fights in 2015 and 2017. He lost both those bouts to Daniel Cormier. The second loss would also be Johnson’s last fight in the UFC.

After the second Cormier loss Johnson announced his retirement from the sport. However, as is often the case, the retirement did not stick. In 2020 he signed for Bellator and made his debut in 2021.

At last year’s Bellator 258 he KO’d Jose Augusto Azevedo Barros in the quarterfinal of the Bellator Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix. He was due to face Vadim Nemkov in the next round. However he was forced to withdraw from that bout due to a serious illness.

Though the illness was never specified, Johnson posted images to Instagram showing him in a hospital bed. He also asked followers to pray for his recovery.

Recently Johnson shared the news that he has returned to training. With that news came an image of Johnson looking like he did back in his welterweight days.

“If you knew the path I’m on you’d understand this is a big step,” wrote Johnson. “When I’m back you’ll see a different, more dangerous version of what you’ve already seen.”

Johnson’s post-illness physique looks far more streamlined than how he appeared just two years ago, back when he was dabbling in bodybuilding.

Before he lost to Cormier and left the UFC, Johnson scored three KO wins in a row defeating Jimi Manuwa, Ryan Bader and current UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira. At 205 lbs Johnson also holds stoppage wins over Alexander Gustafsson and Antonio Rogerio Noguiera.

Johnson’s reputation as one of the most feared power strikers in the sport is marred by a history of domestic abuse allegations. In 2008 he was convicted of domestic battery and was sentenced to three years of probation. In 2014 a police report accused Johnson of domestic abuse, but no charges were filed. In 2015 Johnson was accused of domestic battery, but those charges were dropped after Johnson reached a plea deal with prosecutors.