Anthony “Rumble” Johnson Wrestles with Vulnerability Following Rough Bellator Debut

Anthony “Rumble” Johnson stepped away from MMA four years ago, and his return to the sport at Bellator 258 was a rough welcome back. While most of the fight was one-way traffic, Johnson was eventually caught by an errant left hook from his opponent which sent him to the canvas. Johnson survived, but just barely, making his way into the second round. In that second round, “Rumble” cracked Jose Augusto with a blistering overhand right which sent the Brazilian to the canvas.

When Anthony “Rumble” Johnson sat down for his post-fight media scrum after his bout at Bellator 258, he looked dejected. Even though he scored a knockout in his first bout in four years and a title shot against Bellator Light-Heavyweight Champion Vadim Nemkov, Johson stated that he was more disappointed following Bellator 258 than any other bout in his career – including his losses.

Even though Johnson wasn’t impressed with himself, even appearing emotional in the post-fight interview, he had no excuses for what he thought was a flat performance.

As an analyst, I’m not sure what to make of it. It could be a positive that Johnson seems to be hyper-critical of himself, but it could also be a warning sign for the 37 year-old bomber. While you like to see an athlete that wants to improve, at moments it seemed like Johnson was shocked by his vulnerability. For a fighter who is used to rolling through lesser competition, getting rattled by a late-notice fighter with less than ten bouts to his name might leave an unfortunate impression.

He was shocked that he got dropped stating, “He hit me. I don’t mind getting hit, but I got hit and I dropped. I mean, what the hell? That ain’t me. That was a piss-poor performance on my part. I’m better than that. I know I’m better than that. You guys know I’m better than that. I’m not going to call it a lucky shot – he hit me. He caught me slipping. He got in on me. That was all on me and I’m pissed at myself that he hit me.”

Confidence is key in this sport, and with Johnson taking on the Bellator Light-Heavyweight Champion Vadim Nemkov next, he’ll need all the confidence he can muster up. With Johnson getting dropped for the first time in a long time, he may come away from his bout at Bellator 258 with some newfound timidity. For a fighter who relies on pressuring forward and looking to trade, that’s not going to bode well for a Grand Prix campaign.

All that said, I could be reading into things a little too much. Who knows, Johnson may use his disappointment to fuel an evolution into a much better “Rumble” than we’ve ever seen.

We can only hope, because it could be much worse. At the post-fight press conference, we may have seen a “Rumble” Johnson that came to grips with the reality of coming back into the sport. He’s in too deep now to go back to retirement, and as the Grand Prix rolls on, Johnson’s mindset might be the same Achilles heel that it was before he left the sport four years ago.

Categories: Bellator, Editorials

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