They say in sports it’s not the person that starts the fight it’s the one that retaliates that most often gets penalized the harshest. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson found out something similar this weekend. After missing his contracted weight at 185 lbs significantly, weighing in at 197 lbs on fight day after a disastrous weight cut in Brazil, Johnson promptly proceeded to lose badly to Vitor Belfort and subsequently was cut from the UFC.
But one could argue that Johnson’s body responding poorly to another massive weight cut should earn him a reprieve once the controversy surrounding the circumstances of his weight cut died down and the truth about it came out instead of the rampant speculation surrounding it. And then Johnson’s retaliation to it all only sealed his fate.
“I’m already laughing at what ppl are saying,” Johnson wrote on Facebook after coming in at 197 pounds for what was supposed to be his middleweight debut. “Yeah it was for medical reason and I did what the UFC Dr Told me to do. Believe it or don’t I give a f**k cuz the ppl close to me were freaking out but I’m still alive and something like this has never happen before. Say what you want I’m still gonna do my thang. You try not having feeling in your legs and can’t move then and see how you look at life after that.”
That’s the thing that ultimately has doomed Johnson and sent a massive warning out to the UFC roster. Maintaining that base level of professionalism in making weight is as important as the fight itself. And having something this disastrous occur for a fight of this profile demands more than a defiant Facebook posting in order to try and save face and potentially a job, it seems, as Johnson did everything but try to maintain his spot on the UFC roster.
The one thing that Dana White and company have always hated above anything else is missing weight. It’s an old standard coming from the boxing world they grew up in and a standard of amateur wrestling as well; you make weight or you generally don’t compete. Part of being a professional is doing the small things like making weight, et al. Missing a weigh in happens and isn’t the end of the world; sometimes the human body just can’t quite make a certain limit after a while. It’s not like he’d be the first for this to happen to and he won’t be the last, either.
It happens to plenty of fighters; Nick Diaz stopped fighting at lightweight as his weight cut to 155 lbs became impossible. Daniel Cormier spent years making a significant weight cut as a freestyle wrestler and his body eventually went into renal failure during an Olympics he was favored to win. It’s why he fights as an undersized heavyweight as opposed to a light heavyweight now; cutting weight to 205 might kill or several incapacitate him at this point. Dan Henderson’s body has changed over the years from cutting weight as he is now on Testosterone Replacement Therapy after years of weight cutting as an Olympic caliber wrestler.
One could argue that Johnson’s massive weight cut for years to welterweight made his weight cut to middleweight that much harder. It’s not all that hard to believe that Johnson cutting nearly fifty pounds any number of times has done enough damage to him that cutting half that to get to 185 puts too much stress on his body. The fact that what should’ve been an easier weight cut for him ended up going so poorly speaks to that more than it does to his “unprofessionalism.” That’s what is being lost in all of the talk behind this: his body might be in the early phases of something damaging because of all of this. It’s something to legitimately worry about as a fight fan for “Rumble.”
With a simple, public apology to his fans and to his opponent Johnson comes off in a much better light than he does with the vitriol he showed after a wave of poor comedy that bombarded him after the announcement. With an explanation of what led up him to stopping his cut and starting to rehydrate, Johnson winds up in less of a bad spot than he does by the almost defiant explanation he gave. Missing weight that poorly could’ve been a good thing for him in a way; it would show that drastic weight cuts done poorly can wind up doing bad things to the body and that a proper weight cut ala, The Dolce Diet, is healthier. Johnson took would could’ve been a teachable moment for fans, one now that will probably lead him to fighting at light heavyweight on the regional circuit for a while, and turned it into one that garnered him no sympathy for the same result from the same people.
A simple apology to his opponent and an explanation of what happened, alongside the second weigh in the next morning, and Johnson winds up not nearly as much of the unprofessional clown he came off as. And it’s a shame because he is a talented fighter capable of being a world champion sometime in the future. A little professionalism in how he handled himself and he still might be on the UFC roster instead of looking to see if Bellator is hiring.