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Will Anthony Johnson Stay Retired From UFC?

By Kody Miller
Published on April 24, 2017
Anthony Johnson Retirement Image

UFC 210 might have been a nearly exact repeat of UFC 187 for UFC light heavyweight (205-pound) champion “DC” Daniel Cormier and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (Johnson tapped to a rear-naked choke.) Then Johnson shocked the MMA world—outside of his team—by announcing his retirement.

His coach, Henri Hooft appeared on ’s The MMA Hour and said that Johnson still aims to be an athlete-in football. He said, “Anthony is 33 years old, so you never know what happens in the future, but if you want to step away from it, you really need to step away from it. Or you need to become a coach, like I did after my fight career. But it’s totally different than MMA. I think it has something to do with football. If you look at his Twitter and his social media, people will find out sooner or later what’s really going on.”

Hooft said it himself, Johnson is 33. Other sites are reporting that he’s aiming at the NFL specifically. Don’t expect that to happen. However, even if he gets a shot in the league like CM Punk did with the UFC when coming from WWE, don’t expect him to return to the UFC/MMA.

Here are five reasons why he will.

5. His Late Start

As you will read below, Johnson is starting at zero in his thirties. He may play in football, but it won’t be in the NFL. The Canadian Football League (CFL) and the Arena Football League (AFL) are the Bellator of football. Young guns who aren’t quite good enough for the big show go there for further development while veterans with careers on life support go there to fade away.

Given his age, the CFL seems more probable because unlike with CM Punk, you can’t have as much of a sport versus entertainment discussion with other sports. The NFL is not on pay-per-view, so Johnson can’t be justified like Punk as a PPV draw. However, if he does play in the top league like Punk in the UFC, plenty of discussion about the cheapening of the sport will be had.

With no prior football experience, Johnson will need to go to a lesser league to develop because he should, expectedly, not be good enough for the highest level of play. He will probably hate the lower league and go back to what he knows best.

4. No Football Background

Johnson’s athletic ability is unreal. But to make him into the CM Punk of football is incredibly irresponsible. The Georgia native did compete during his college years, but as a wrestler (at the junior college level no less.) Before college, there is also no information documenting a high school or lower level football history.

The NFL and football as a whole also has a higher rate of brain damage and mental health issues (specifically Chronic Traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.) While Johnson has passed all of his medical tests in combat sports, he undoubtedly has brain damage from fighting. All parties involved need to be cautious just like when a football player transitions to MMA.

3. His Domestic Violence Allegations

After the Ray Rice incident in which the Baltimore Ravens star knocked his wife out cold and then dragged her out of an elevator (among other incidents from players) the NFL won’t want to deal with the headache of bringing Johnson in given his past. He was suspended by the UFC in 2014 for allegations of violence against the mother of his two kids. The case was then voluntarily dismissed by the complainant.

The initial police report said that Johnson had punched the woman (her name was redacted) in the face and knockout two teeth along with continuing his alleged harassment through threatening phone calls.

The UFC that the judge overseeing the matter questioned that person about why they were voluntarily backing out (in some cases this happens due to intimidation) and then the matter was officially closed.

The world leader in MMA said at the time: “The UFC organization will not tolerate domestic violence, sexual assault or any other violation of its Code of Conduct. The organization is committed to thoroughly investigating all allegations and taking the appropriate action when warranted.”

It’s one thing for Johnson to return to his native sport after a case like this is dismissed, but the UFC and the sport of MMA still puts a negative taste in the mouths of ignorant detractors. When mainstream media gets wind that a former UFC fighter (some in the media unintelligently use UFC and MMA interchangeably when other fighters have been in similar situations) is coming into the NFL, others in the league or media may try to pressure him out.

2. Acting Would Be Safer than Football

“Rumble” may not mind getting physical (it’s part of why even though he’s retired, he’s only retired from MMA and is transitioning between careers) but why not make big money without necessarily needing to be as physical as an athlete? He won’t bring as much star power to the screen as a former UFC champion (“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, Randy “The Natural Couture” or Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell for example) but bank is bank and he already has one film under his belt.

Johnson was cast as a “background fighter” of sorts, portraying the character of Orlando “Midnight” in the 2011 mixed martial arts-based drama, Warrior.

1. He Never Won a UFC or MMA Title/ The Curse of the RNC

The same drive that Johnson had for MMA that seems to be pushing him to football (at the moment) could haunt him while he pursues the sport. Johnson amassed a 22-6 record with all of his stoppages being by knockout or TKO.

Perhaps because it never appeared that he trained in grappling beyond takedown/defense (wrestling) that’s what made him so vulnerable when it came to submissions. Minus one TKO loss due to an eye injury, Johnson’s other five (including in his retirement fight at UFC 210) were all by submission due to a rear-naked choke.

He’s good, but can get even better and he shouldn’t end up looking back on his career as being a title contender that was right on the bubble of being a top-tier guy that could never win “the big one.”

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