Coach: Rumble Is Not Somebody Who Quits

Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale for USA TODAY Sports

After racking up three straight knockout wins over Jimi Manuwa, Ryan Bader, and Glover Teixeira since losing a title bid versus current champion Daniel Cormier in May 2015, top-ranked UFC light heavyweight Anthony “Rumble” Johnson will finally get another shot at “DC” in the main event of this Saturday’s (April 8, 2017) UFC 210 from the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.

Arguably the most feared striker in all of mixed martial arts (MMA), the dominant “Rumble” has won 12 out of his last 13 bouts and boasts nine T/KO wins during the torrid stretch. However, he was thoroughly dominated by Cormier after the champion was able to survive an early punch to utilize his Olympic wrestling to smother Johnson and win the bout by submission in the third frame.

When Cormier locked in the fight-ending choke, Johnson’s famed striking coach Henri Hooft could be heard yelling, “Don’t give up” in the background, something Cormier said made him certain his biggest victory was almost at hand. But during a recent interview on ESPN’s “Five Rounds” Podcast with Brett Okamoto (via Bloody Elbow), the Dutch kickboxing specialist explained just what he meant when he repeated that phrase. Apparently, he meant it as more of a motivation to not give Cormier a position where he would be dominant:

“Some people say ‘you’re a great coach, but you cannot tell that to your students.’ That’s bulls—t!” Hooft explained. “Because every training, in a scramble when you give the back to somebody, we talk about this ‘don’t give up, scramble! scramble!’ Don’t give up position, and don’t just sit there and wait.’

“He’s going to be strong (in that position) and you’re going to be weaker, so that’s why we try to motivate them to don’t give up,” he said. “He got a little bit crazy in the first round, and he had to survive the second round just to get his second wind. Not ‘giving up’ was not saying he wants to quit in the fight, I don’t think AJ is like that. Otherwise he wouldn’t come up this far — but give up positions, where his opponent is getting stronger.”

Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale for USA TODAY Sports

Hooft refuted all who believe “Rumble” is a fighter who can be broken mentally, noting that Cormier, who only has a single loss to disgraced all-time great Jon Jones on his record, was the only fighter to beat him in his wildly successful UFC return:

“Probably people think they can break AJ, but it’s kinda funny. The only guy that beat AJ was DC, the rest, AJ knocked everybody out. They’re saying ‘he’s mentally weak, blah blah blah’ but you see what happens (to his opponents). A real fighter doesn’t quit in the fight in the sense of ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’, but they give up a position. That’s where it gets wrong, because you give the opponent confidence. That was more of the case of me trying to make him not give up position and to keep going.”

Finally, Hooft clarified his statement by pointing out that with all Johnson’s been through in his up-and-down MMA career, he simply wouldn’t be in the elite position he’s in right now if he was indeed a fighter who packed it in:

“It doesn’t mean quitting the fight. I don’t think a guy like AJ — what he went through with all these weight cuts, with all these problems and everything, he wouldn’t be fighting anymore if he quits.”

“Anthony is not somebody who quits. That’s not the case. Maybe it was just a little misunderstood. People get like crazy about it. C’mon man, be serious.”

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