Former UFC light-heavyweight contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson has died aged 38.

Johnson had been battling an undisclosed illness in recent times but news of his death has rocked the MMA world with fans and fighters alike unaware of the severity of his condition.

“Rumble” was widely regarded as one of the most exciting fighters in the sport during the peak of his powers and competed across multiple weight divisions in the UFC.

However, 23-6 superstar enjoyed his most successful period in the promotion when campaigning at light heavyweight, twice challenging for the 205lb title during a 6-2 run between 2014 and 2017.

23-6 (17 KOs)
Johnson's MMA record

One of the most explosive finishers in UFC history, Johnson defeated the likes of Alexander Gustafsson, Jimi Manuwa and Glover Teixeira and shared a thrilling rivalry with UFC great Daniel Cormier, against whom both of his UFC world title fight losses came.

“Rest easy my brother,” Cormier wrote on Twitter last night.

“For a guy who struck fear in so many peoples hearts, Anthony Johnson was a caring person. From random texts to check-ins during loss. What a person he was, Rumble will be missed.

“Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair. Horrible news.”

Another former opponent, Teixeira, also paid tribute to Johnson, writing: “I am so sad to hear about this news.

“Utterly shocked and saddened by this news”
- Michael Bisping

“One of the most scary & tough opponents that I had ever faced and one of the nicest and most humble humans I have ever met.

“My heart is broken. My condolences to his family. RIP.”

Former middleweight world champion Michael Bisping added: “Utterly shocked and saddened by this news. RIP. Sincere condolences to all his family and loved ones.”

Johnson had recently returned to MMA competition, ending a four-year hiatus from the sport when he fought against Jose Augusto Azevedo at Bellator 258 last summer.

However, he was later forced to withdraw from the promotion’s light heavyweight world grand prix due to illness.

Confirming Johnson’s death in a short statement posted on social media last night , a Bellator MMA spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we acknowledge the passing of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.

“The BELLATOR family is devastated by his untimely passing and we send our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.”