No. 3-ranked UFC light heavyweight Anthony Johnson recently had a massive burden lifted off his shoulders when domestic violence allegations leveled against him were dropped, opening the door for the surging slugger to face off with No. 1-ranked Alexander Gustafsson in the main event of January 24’s UFC on FOX 14 event from Stockholm, Sweden.
With domestic violence a very polarizing topic in professional sports right now, it was the worst time for “Rumble” to fall under a similar set of circumstances as disgraced NFL players Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. Although his situation ended in a much more positive light, it was still a trying time for the popular bruiser. “Rumble” appeared on today’s edition of “The MMA Hour” to give his side of the story, noting that his friends and family stuck by him through the tough time:
“It was depressing, really — it made me learn who I could trust and who are my real friends and where. It’s over with and life goes on and I still have a strong support system. My fans have been great. My family has stuck beside me. My teammates didn’t turn their backs on me. I’m blessed and I’m happy that I’m still here.”
Johnson was asked to elaborate on how he felt when he found out the good news that he had been reinstated, and he admitted that he couldn’t help but get emotional:
“I cried. Whenever I got home, I cried. I cried just because with so much going on and me not giving up and still having faith and believing in myself and stuff like that…I was emotional man, you know? Going through so much in somebody’s career and you get one of the biggest opportunities of a lifetime, that comes right to you. I couldn’t do anything but cry.”
Johnson chose to focus more on the future rather than the past, not wanting to get into the details of the case or why it was dropped:
“There’s nothing really to say; it’s been dismissed and that’s all that matters. Both parties went their own way. That’s the end of the story. I don’t have any hard feelings towards her. Like I said, I’m just going to stay positive no matter what. So there’s really nothing more to say.”
Now “Rumble” will move on to the tall task of Gustafsson, who could present the stiffest challenge of Johnson’s lengthy MMA career. He knows that he’s going into extremely hostile territory, but he said he relishes the role of being the most hated man in Stockholm come January 24:
“Of course, of course — Gus is a hell of a fighter. I have the utmost respect for him. He’s a beast. Going into his hometown, his country, I really have to be on my A game and stay focused. Because right now I’m probably enemy No. 1 over there.”
“Rumble” has been freed to resume his climb up the crowded UFC light heavyweight rankings. Will he lock up a title shot by defeating Gustafsson in his own backyard, or will “The Mauler” send him plummeting to the back of the line?