Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Coach Henri Hooft: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is Not a Quitter

Daniel Cormier and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson will fight for the UFC light heavyweight title, as they previously did at UFC 187 in May 2015.

While “DC” took the win by way of rear-naked choke in the third round.¬†Johnson’s coach, Henri Hooft will be remembered for repeatedly shouting “don’t give up” to¬†“Rumble”.

Cormier is someone who certainly does not forget Hooft’s urgency in that fight when he instructed his fighter to keep his head in the battle. Cormier alluded to Johnson’s inability to see out a fight in yesterday’s media conference call ahead of next weekend’s UFC 210 card in Buffalo, New York.

Hooft spoke to ESPN.com’s Five Rounds podcast to clarify that his cage-side instructions to Johnson were far from an indication that “Rumble” is a quitter (via ESPN):

“SOME PEOPLE SAY, ‘YOU’RE A GREAT COACH, BUT YOU CAN’T TELL THAT TO YOUR STUDENTS [IN A FIGHT],'” HOOFT SAID. “THAT’S BULLS**T, BECAUSE IN TRAINING, WHEN THEY SCRAMBLE AND GIVE THEIR BACK TO SOMEBODY, WE SCREAM, ‘KEEP SCRAMBLING! KEEP GOING!’ IT’S MORE A CASE OF, ‘DON’T GIVE UP POSITION. DON’T SIT THERE AND WAIT FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN BECAUSE [YOUR OPPONENT] IS GOING TO BE STRONGER.

“‘DON’T GIVE UP’ WAS NOT SAYING ‘DON’T QUIT THE FIGHT’ — I DON’T THINK A.J. IS LIKE THAT, OTHERWISE HE WOULDN’T HAVE COME AS FAR AS HE IS NOW — BUT [IT MEANS] ‘DON’T GIVE UP POSITIONS WHERE YOUR OPPONENT FEELS HE’S GETTING STRONGER.'”

Hooft’s belief in Johnson’s mental game is clearly strong, and with good reason. Johnson’s record, discipline and ability to shed tremendous weight to meet 170 pounds earlier in his career is not consistent with weakness:

“A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK THEY CAN BREAK A.J., WHICH IS KIND OF FUNNY,” HOOFT SAID. “AFTER ALL HE WENT THROUGH WITH THE WEIGHT CUTS ALL THE PROBLEMS, HE WOULDN’T BE FIGHTING ANYMORE IF HE WAS SOMEONE WHO QUIT. [AFTER HE WAS CUT BY THE UFC IN 2012], HE WENT TO SMALL SHOWS IN KANSAS CITY, WHERE THERE WERE NO LOCKER ROOMS. WE’VE CUT WEIGHT ON THE HIGHWAY TOGETHER.

“WHEN HE FOUGHT VITOR BELFORT [IN 2012], NORMALLY I WOULDN’T HAVE LET MY FIGHTER FIGHT, BUT IT WAS THE FIRST TIME I WAS IN HIS CORNER. HE COULDN’T EVEN WALK THE NIGHT BEFORE. I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY THE UFC LET HIM FIGHT. HE FOUGHT BECAUSE THERE WERE 30,000 PEOPLE IN THE STADIUM. HE DIDN’T QUIT AND GAVE EVERYTHING HE HAD IN THE FIRST ROUND, AND THEN HE WAS DONE. ANTHONY IS NOT SOMEBODY WHO QUITS.”