No. 2-ranked light heavyweight contender Anthony Johnson is no stranger to having his work ethic questioned. The former 205-pound title challenger was called out by current champion Daniel Cormier prior to their main event at UFC 187 last May, and now "Rumble" is facing the heat from Power MMA head coach Aaron Simpson.
"A-Train" is a former UFC fighter himself and he's also the current coach of Johnson's UFC on FOX 18 opponent tomorrow night (Sat., Jan. 30, 2016), Ryan Bader. Simpson appeared on the MMA Hour earlier this week to discuss the New Jersey headliner and he had some choice words for the Blackzilian product, who was allegedly pursued by the former's alma mater of Arizona State University many years ago for his wrestling ability.
Johnson has since responded to these claims of being a quitter in a recent media scrum:
"I wouldn't have even considered Arizona State, so him talking about recruiting me was boo-boo. You know what I'm saying? I don't know what the hell he's talking about as far as like -- I heard he was saying they were talking about recruiting me and he said he talked to some coaches and stuff like that. Hell, I didn't associate myself with anybody except my coaches and I know my coaches didn't say that back then. He can say whatever he wants to say. We'll see what the results are after the fight. They want to say I'm mentally weak, that's fine. I hope they go into the fight with that mindset because they're in for a long night if they do."
The 31-year-old knockout artist is known for his wicked right hand, but that doesn't mean he's lacking in the wrestling department. Johnson was a standout junior college wrestler from Lassen Community College in California.
However, his success on the wrestling mat during his collegiate years hasn't necessarily followed him into the Octagon. While Johnson has enjoyed dominance in the grappling department over the likes of former welterweight title challenger Dan Hardy in the past, he has been bested by wrestling stalwarts like "DC" in his latest UFC run.
Don't say Cormier didn't tell you so.
Whether Johnson gets finished by the streaking Bader -- another combatant with a pristine wrestling pedigree -- remains to be seen. "Darth" has taken out Top-10 competitors like Rashad Evans and Phil Davis en route to what is potentially a title eliminator main event with Johnson inside Prudential Center.
As for Johnson himself, the Florida-based combatant took home the "W" via second-round knockout over Jimi Manuwa back in September.
Can Johnson prove the doubters wrong, or will Bader rise to the occasion in "Dirty Jersey?" We'll find out soon enough.