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Former UFC star Anthony Johnson shockingly passes away at 38

Jason Burgos
anthony johnson, ufc
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Two-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger Anthony Johnson has tragically passed away at just 38 years old.

On Sunday, veteran MMA insider Ariel Helwani was one of the first to report the sad news of the unexpected passing of the former UFC star. In his tweet, Helwani noted that the Georgia native “had been battling an illness for quite some time.”

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Details of Johnson’s illness have never been revealed. The most information the MMA veteran ever gave was during a late 2021 interview where he asked fans for prayers as things seemed to be getting worse for him.

“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. Never been this afraid of anything in my life but I’ve remained strong with the support of friends and family.”

– Anthony Johnson on health concerns (h/t The Mirror)

Last month, Johnson’s long-time manager Ali Abdelaziz noted things were grim for his client and was also asking for prayers from long-time fans. “Pray for Anthony. It’s not going well. He’s very strong, spiritually. But pray for him,” Abdelaziz said.

Anthony Johnson scored 17 career knockouts, 11 in the UFC

Anthony Johnson walked away from the UFC in 2017 following a second title fight defeat to light heavyweight legend Daniel Cormier at UFC 210. “Rumble” transitioned to opening his own marijuana-based business in the years following his retirement from MMA. However, his hiatus did not last long.

  • Anthony Johnson record: 23-6 (17 KO)

In 2021, Johnson signed with rival MMA organization Bellator to be a part of their highly-anticipated light heavyweight Grand Prix. He made his debut for the promotion in May of that year with a vintage knockout win over replacement opponent Jose Augusto Azevedo.

Johnson was set to face champion Vadim Nemkov in October of 2021 in the semifinals of the tournament. However, his burgeoning health issues precluded him from competing at Bellator 268. He never returned to action following his lone fight for the organization at Bellator 258.

The 29-fight veteran will go down as one of the pound-for-pound hardest-hitting fighters in MMA history. Over two stints in the UFC, he scored 10 of his 17 career knockouts. During his career, he earned KO victories in 74% of his wins. During his 15 years in the sport, he scored wins over stars of his era like Phil Davis, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alexander Gustafsson, Ryan Bader, and Glover Teixeira.

Following the sad news, two-time opponent and UFC Hall-of-Famer Cormier released a statement on Twitter about his former foe’s passing.

“Rest Easy my brother. For a guy who struck fear in so many people’s heart, Anthony Johnson was a caring person. 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.”

– Daniel Cormier on Johnson’s passing