Friday, July 11, 2008

Anthony Johnson Interview: ‘Ready to Rumble’ with Kevin Burns

Posted by Robert Rousseau 07/11/08—2:37 PM -

There are a lot of up and coming MMA fighters out there with solid records. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and his 5-1 record with three (T)KO’s is one of them. Thus, if you were going on just that then he might get lost in the shuffle with every other fighter that has put up good numbers to start their career.

But if you saw Johnson in his last bout against former TUF 6 finalist Tom Speer then you know that he is anything but just another in a long list of up and coming fighters to watch. The way he shirked Speer’s takedown attempts made the powerful farm boy look as if he didn’t have the strong wrestling background that he did. The way that he threw hands at Speer—with terrific speed, power, and ferocity—made him seem as if he had a professional background in striking, something that you’ll soon learn he doesn’t truly have.

All told, it took only 51 seconds for Johnson to finish his opponent off.

With Johnson’s next fight against Kevin Burns on July 19th at UFC Fight Night 14 looming, we here at were lucky enough to get the chance to talk to the former all state high school wrestler about training, his opponent, his nickname, the possibility of fighting Diego Sanchez, and more. How’s training been going?

Anthony Johnson: It’s going great, man. Been training hard. I’m in great cardio shape and my game plan hopefully works out for me. I’m excited for the fight. Whom have you been training with and where have you been training?

Anthony Johnson: I’m training with Cung Le out in San Jose. He’s one of the best fighters out (there) right now, so I’m trying to learn from him. Yeah, he’s a great guy to work with for sure. In your last fight against Tom Speer you seemed to have an easy time shirking his takedowns. I know it was a quick fight, but do you have a wrestling background?

Anthony Johnson: Yeah, I wrestled in college. I started wrestling when I was eight years old and had a wrestling scholarship out of high school. I went to Lassen Community College and won a national championship and then that was all she wrote. After I won my national championship I was like, I’m done wrestling. (Laughing) Beyond wrestling, when I watch you fight it also looks like you’ve done a lot of striking work. What’s your background when it comes to striking?

Anthony Johnson: I really never did boxing or anything like that. I just got tired of getting hit in the mouth. One day I was looking in the mirror when I was going to take a shower and I said I’m going to start punching back at people. The next day in training people were pointing at me; I ended up swinging back and I was successful so. . . After that day I got a boxing trainer. . . But I’ve never actually been in a boxing match. What do you think of your opponent, Kevin Burns?

Anthony Johnson: He’s a tough guy. He’s survived a lot of people. He beat Roan Carneiro. This is the UFC and MMA so anything can happen. But I think he’ll try and take me down to the ground. I also know he’s got some pretty good striking. I’ve seen him throw some pretty good shots at people. We’ll see how things go. I’m looking forward to a good fight. We’re both on the main card, so it’s all good. We just have to go in there, mix it up, and do what we do best. Obviously, I know that you’re focused on this fight. But I did hear that you hope to fight Diego Sanchez in the future. Can you talk about that?

Anthony Johnson: I think he’s a great competitor. I didn’t really like him when I first started MMA because of his whole attitude on the Ultimate Fighter. But you know that’s just part of being on the show. I respect him as a fighter. I think he’s a very tough person to fight against. His cardio is great; he really pushes the pace.

I can’t really call out just Diego. Obviously, I want to fight anybody they put in front of me so I can get that belt . . . I have to fight some of the other guys, some of the best. So it’s not just Diego that I’m willing to fight; I’m willing to fight all of them. How did your nickname ‘Rumble’ come about?

Anthony Johnson: I was in Big Bear training for a four man tournament. I was riding down the mountain after my training camp and I was like, I’ve got to figure out a nickname for me, one that sticks out. I was like, they’ve got a Shogun, they’ve got a Wanderlei, they’ve got a Rampage, a Cabbage, you know? I wanted to start calling myself the Southern Rambo because I’m originally from Georgia. But I was like, that sounds kind of corny. When I was little I used to always say, ‘Let’s get ready to rumble,’ before a football game and stuff. The name ‘Rumble’ has sort of been stuck with me. I liked it; (it) was something different. So I stuck with it. Sounds good to me. Do you have a prediction for this fight coming up?

Anthony Johnson: I predict a win. I’ll take a win any way I can get it legally. I don’t want to leave it in anybody’s hands. I don’t want it to be stopped for a cut; I don’t want it to be stopped for the ref thinking that I tapped or he tapped or anything like that. . .

I plan on winning. If it goes my way, I plan on knocking him out like I do everybody else that’s in front of me. Do you have anything you would like to say to the fans?

Anthony Johnson: Oh, man. Thank you all for supporting me, following me, and sticking with me. I’d like to thank my sponsors Tap Out and Knoxx and my boys at MMA Agents. Without all of those guys I just said I wouldn’t be able to be where I am right now. I thank everybody for sticking by me.



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