The ex-fighter was due to fight for the Bellator light-heavyweight title in September of last year but pulled out due to a health issue that persisted over the past year.
The American, who joined Bellator last year, explained how sick he was during a social media post, which read: “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.”
His manager Ali Abdelaziz had asked fans last month to “pray” for the fighter before it was confirmed last night that he lost his battle with illness.
“Rumble, he’s going through some health problems right now. It’s very sad,” Abdelaziz said during an ESPN interview in October. “I think, I want everybody to pray for him. Pray for Anthony. It’s not going well. He’s very strong, spiritually. But pray for him.”
Confirming his death on Sunday, November 13, Bellator said: “It is with great sadness we acknowledge the passing of Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson.
“The Bellator family is devastated by his untimely passing and we send our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.”
Johnson competed in the UFC at welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight, and was known as one of the most feared punchers in the sport. He was 3-0 when he debuted in the UFC on June 12, 2007, knocking out Chad Reiner in just 13 seconds in Hollywood, Florida.
He scored 17 of his 23 MMA wins by knockout, and as he massively bulked up in his career, he kept his power with him. He twice challenged for the UFC light heavyweight title, losing to Daniel Cormier both times by rear naked choke. Cormier defeated Johnson first at UFC 187 on May 23, 2015, for the vacant title that had been stripped from Jon Jones.