Scott Coker, Dana White And Josh Thompson Pay Tribute To Anthony Johnson

Anthony Johnson was on Bellator’s roster prior to his tragic death last Friday, and the promotion’s CEO Scott Coker has since paid tribute to the star.

“That was not an easy phone call to get,” said Coker during a media scrum. “Really, I just loved that guy. He was like a gentle giant. People that really go to know him all loved him.”

“The guy was loved around the world. I think he was loved more than he knew – How many fans he had, or the impact he made.”

“I want to say I met Anthony when he career started,” Coker continued. “He was at Cung Le’s gym fighting at 170. I don’t think he was even at the UFC at that time. I got to know him a little bit and followed his career, and stayed in touch. When he became a free agent we said, let’s go get this guy because I think he’s a tremendous talent.”

Sadly ‘Rumble’ only had a chance to fight once under the Bellator banner before his passing, although it’s fitting that it ended in the style he’d become accustomed to over the years, with his hand raised after KO’ing his opponent.

That win had booked Johnson’s spot in the semi-finals of Bellator’s light-heavyweight tournament, before he had to withdraw due to his illness, which only after his eventual death would be revealed to have been from Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“It was a devastating day,” Coker said when he learned of Johnson’s death. “It’s unfortunate. I knew he was in and out of the hospital. I have texts of me and him texting like two months ago … I had no idea that he was this ill, and I think that he didn’t know, maybe.”

“This came as a shock to us and the whole company because everybody loved that guy. It was devastating. It was a big loss.”

Johnson spent much of his career fighting in the UFC’s Octagon and Dana White has also paid his respects to one of the sports all-time heavy-hitters.

“He was always a great kid,” White told kevin Iole. “He was always in fun fights and he had that one-punch KO power that not many people ever had. He was a good human being. I send my condolences to his family.”

Meanwhile, ex UFC, Bellator and Strikeforce fighter Josh Thomson has also paid tribute to Johnson on his podcast with ‘Big’ John McCarthy as he emotionally recalled how he became friends with the humble star, and you can watch what he had to say in the video below.

Ross launched MMA Insight (previously in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts. He's since penned countless news stories and live fight reports along with dozens of feature articles as the lead writer for the site, reaching millions of fans in the process.