Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Johnson returns to the Octagon

Originally posted on fightnewsextra.com

In April 2008, a highly regarded Ultimate Fighter runner up in Tommy Speer stepped into the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 13. Hailed as the next Matt Hughes, Speer squared off against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, a relative unknown.

The result would send Speer packing, and made Johnson a welterweight to watch.

It took the California fighter a mere 51 seconds to dispose of Speer with a brutal right hand that literally left Speer asleep, sitting up, on the side of the cage.

After that highlight reel knockout, Johnson stepped back into the cage three months later to face Kevin Burns at UFC: Silva vs. Irvin.

The bout almost ended Johnson’s career.

“I felt great,” Johnson said about his feelings heading into the match. “Those damn eye pokes are what really got me.” A previous injury that had not fully healed prevented Burns from closing his hand, resulting in several unintentional pokes to Johnson’s eye. Johnson weathered the storm, but said he did not alert the referee due to previous instructions prohibiting communication with an official during the bout.

“I dealt with it,” he said of the first few pokes. “I would’ve said something from the beginning but [referee Steve] Mazagatti told me not to talk to him during the match. I was doing what the man asked me to because I respect the officials. [Kevin] poked me in the eye the first time and I had my guard up, but his finger went through. I looked at Mazagatti and he didn’t say anything. But I’m not mad at Mazagatti or Kevin.”

The fifth and final eye poke sent Johnson sprawling to the canvas. Burns pounced, earning a controversial technical knockout as a result. Mazagatti did not have access to an instant replay and called the contest for Burns.

Johnson later appealed the ruling, but was denied.

Though Johnson harbors no ill will towards, he is not hesitant to express his disapproval at the way things transpired. “I think it was stupid that Kevin would go into the fight knowing he couldn’t close his hand with the danger it put my career in and how dumb it made him look as a fighter.”

In an age where mixed martial arts is on the verge of mainstream appeal, Johnson doesn’t believe bouts ending the way his and Burns’ did made the sport palatable to skeptical onlookers. In my opinion it made the sport look really bad too, everybody that doesn’t know the sport already thinks we’re beasts, and then you watch for the first time and see somebody damn near get their eye poked out because somebody is being dumb and not taking care of injuries. It made him look bad.”

To Johnson’s credit, he stopped the crowd from booing Burns in the post fight interview. I wasn’t mad at him, like I said. Things happen and they happen for a reason, obviously that’s the way God wanted it to end,” he said reflecting on the incident. “Now if it happens again, I’m not going to be as nice.”

Click here to read the entire article at FightNewsExtra.com



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