Before he was one of the world’s elite athletes, before he was headlining UFC events, and before he was fighting for title shots, Anthony Johnson was an energetic 8-year-old kid.
It wasn’t long into his childhood, that his granddad noticed he had an extraordinary grandson.
Noticing that his grandson was on the move and witnessing his non-stop action exploring the outdoors, he took Anthony on a trip that would forever change his life.
“My granddad took me to my first wrestling practice when I was 8 years old,” Johnson told MMAWeekly.com. “I had no idea where he was taking me, but he took me to my first wrestling practice at the gym at my old middle school. That’s when I started, and from day one I loved it.
“I was a really active kid and I always had a lot of energy climbing trees, jumping out of trees, doing something crazy. So, my granddad just put me in wrestling and I just liked it. I was always an alpha male, basically, and I wanted to make sure I was better than everyone else at everything I did. So wrestling, that’s one-on-one and I always wanted to just pick people up and slam them on their head and put them on their backs to make sure they knew who the man was.”
Driven, focused, and confident, Johnson made his granddad proud, while excelling at his new sport throughout his youth.
As Johnson grew older, he remained loyal to the sport his elder had introduced to him, and then competing in the sport as a collegiate athlete presented itself. He would go on to make the most of his opportunities in becoming a Junior College National Champion at Lassen Community College.
It had all come full circle for a young man that was simply along for the ride with his granddad many years prior.
Johnson was set to move on to the next chapter in his life, which included accepting an invitation that would set the wheels in motion for the world to meet “Rumble.”
“My neighbor at the time from college kept asking me to come to his dad’s gym,” Johnson said. “I finally decided to go, I went, and I just fell in love with it. Fresh out of college from wrestling, I just needed something to keep that edge going that I had and something to excite me. So I tried it, and from day one I just felt like I could really do it. I felt like I was athletic enough. And I’m a pretty fast learner when it comes down to anything athletic. So I tried it and just stuck with it.”
With a competitive fire still burning, Johnson set his sights on mixed martial arts. Soon thereafter, he made a spectacular welterweight debut on Aug. 16, 2006. One minute and nine seconds into his professional career, he had claimed his first victory by way of knockout.
By year’s end, he had claimed three consecutive victories and the world’s most prominent organization had contacted him regarding a career inside the world-famous Octagon…