MMA in general, and the UFC in particular, has become more and more of a home for pro wrestling style antics lately.
We all know why. Sometimes, it seems to work. A good fighter in Chael Sonnen has, infamously, talked his way up into main event status on more than one occasion, using pro wrestling cliches and a Scarface reference or three. In some circles, Ronda Rousey has become known for her mouth as her championship caliber fighting skills. She’s been seen most recently leading a quartet of fighters who pattern themselves after a pro-wrestling “villain” stable of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Over the weekend, Jessamyn Duke, one of Rousey’s “Four Horsewomen,” fought a losing effort to rising star Bethe Correira. As reported by Dana Becker here, Correira lampooned their signature hand gesture in victory.
Some people enjoy this kind of thing. Mostly think it’s lame.
That’s probably why I enjoyed a recent interview with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson so much.
At the same show where Rousey’s protege was dominated, Johnson administered a three-round beating to UFC light heavyweight contender Phil Davis. Johnson showed off a rapidly improving Muay Thai game, developed under the tutelage of legendary Dutch trainer Henri Hooft.
Backstage after the bout, Johnson was interviewed by UFC.com’s Megan Olivi. And, how’s this for a gimmick? “Rumble” was humble.
After offering his respect to his friends, fans, and coaching staff, the man they call “Rumble” mostly just said he wished he could do more against a great opponent.
“I wish I could have done more. I wish I could have mixed it up more. But when you fight a guy like Phil Davis, you have to pick and choose your shots. His wrestling is so strong and his jiu-jitsu is strong. You’ve got to be careful… jiu-jitsu isn’t my strong point. But I was never worried about him taking me down.”
With the main event approaching, Olivi asked the obvious — would Johnson like to fight the winner?
His, perhaps surprising answer? No.
No, I don’t need to. I’m just thinking about a title right now. I’m just thinking about doing what I have to do next to improve myself. I’m not calling anybody out right now. That’s not my thing. I always see guys calling people out, and get beat up. So I’m going to keep my mouth closed.
Olivi, mindful of some of Davis’ pre-fight talk of knocking Johnson out, asked the obvious. “You mean, like your opponent tonight, Phil Davis?”
Johnson smiled and paused. “Prime example. But no disrespect… I’m just happy to be back right now.”
No disrespect? Just a re-invigorated fighter with an impressive and improving skill-set?
We’re all ready for this “Rumble.”