Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, a light heavyweight mixed martial artist who was an integral part of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has died after battling health issues for over a year. He was 38.
Johnson’s cause of death has been revealed as organ failure due to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, according to Yahoo Sports.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a mostly treatable form of cancer. Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis “is a rare but potentially fatal condition in which certain white blood cells build up in and damage organs, including the bone marrow, liver, and spleen, and destroy other blood cells,” according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Johnson spent a decade competing in the UFC from 2007 to 2017. At the time of his death, he was signed with Bellator MMA, which announced his death on social media.
“It is with great sadness we acknowledge the passing of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. The BELLATOR family is devastated by his untimely passing and we send our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time,” Bellator tweeted.
During his UFC career, Johnson competed as a welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight. Yahoo Sports reported that in his UFC debut, he was 3-0 and knocked out Chad Reiner in only 13 seconds for the win.
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His overall fighting record was 23-6, 17 of which he won by knockout. Johnson also competed twice for the light heavyweight title but lost both to Daniel Cormier. Cormier paid tribute to Johnson on social media after his death.
“Rest Easy my brother. For a guy who struck fear in so many peoples heart Anthony Johnson was a caring person,” Cormier tweeted. “From random text to check ins during loss. What a person he was, Rumble will be missed. Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair. Horrible news.”
UFC president Dana White also spoke highly of Johnson. “He was always a great kid,” White said. “He was always in fun fights and he had that one-punch KO power that not many people ever had. He was a good human being. I send my condolences to his family.”
In September 2021, Johnson announced on Instagram that he feared his illness.
“Really wish I could go into detail about how ill I truly am. Just know I need as many prayers as I can get and I’ll see you in 2022, God willing,” Johnson’s post said. “Never been this afraid of anything in my life but I’ve remained strong with the support of friends and family.”
Johnson also gave updates on social media about treatments he received in the hospital, but he never disclosed his diagnosis.
“Just showing a little bit of what’s been going on. This video is a month old,” Johnson wrote in the caption of a video showing his stomach being pumped in October 2021. “When I 1st went to the hospital from being sick they pumped all bacteria from my stomach. This container was the size of a football. No wonder why I wasn’t feeling good but this is only ONE of the reasons and only the 1st pump they did because they did another one days later and I had plenty then. 2nd picture is after the 1st pump.”
He then added a message for people trying to guess his diagnosis. “All the wanna be Dr’s on IG it’s nothing like you’re guessing, so don’t waste your time,” Johnson wrote.
Fans have left an outpouring of condolences and tributes to Johnson on social media.
“Rip legend, thanks for the memories 💜 one of the scariest men in MMA history,” Instagram user @mikeyconlon1_ros wrote.
“May you rest in peace, fantastic fighter. Thanks for the entertainment!” Instagram user @pcat1967 commented.
Instagram user @artem19.05 wrote, “bro, I didn’t know you personally, but now it hurts me so much to know that you are no more. I have tears in my eyes. I remember watching your fight online against DC, then I really wanted you to win and was very upset with you. You are a real champion.”
“To damn young to die, to damn nice, to damn talented, god just got one hell of a bodyguard up there in the pearly gates, rest easy rumble, we’ll never forget you, friend, you’ll be missed man, RIP,” @jacobbbbs_real_buff commented.
One Twitter user brought attention to the fact that people often don’t know what others, including elite athletes, are going through by posting an interview with another UFC fighter, Israel Adesanya, and noting Johnson’s passing.
“Out of all the interviews at #UFC281 I watched this today and it really hit me when I saw @stylebender say this. I was think of it since,” @letsrockinroll3 wrote. “Now I just see the news of #anthonyjohnson one of our favourite ever #mma fighters 38 years old…i just cannot believe it. #RIPAnthonyJohnson”
Journalist Ariel Helwani also spoke of Johnson’s character and impact on the sports world.
“Horrible news: Anthony’ Rumble’ Johnson passed away today. He was 38 years old. Johnson had been battling an illness for quite some time,” Helwani tweeted. “One of the hardest hitters and most talented fighters in MMA history. Gone way too soon. May he rest in peace.”
In his second-to-last Instagram post, Johnson reflected on his career.
“Half of the time I made weight, Half of the time I didn’t make weight,” Johnson wrote. “I don’t regret any of it now‼️ I tried, I didn’t always succeed but I ALWAYS went out there to put someone to sleep or go out on my shield‼️”
PHOTOS: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. (Twitter: @arielhelwani) / Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, left, of the United States celebrates winning against Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson, right, in their UFC featherweight mixed martial arts bout at Tele2 Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/TT, Jessica Gow)