Over the past couple of days, I have come to the realization that Anthony Johnson and myself actually have quite a lot in common.

When I was 18, I was hired by one of the largest men’s haberdasheries as an assistant manager. I did my job well and was promoted to General Manager a mere six months later at the age of 19. Being that young, having so much power went straight to my head. I thought that I was not bound by the rules set forth by my employer. I routinely did whatever I wanted, including showing up to work drunk, which led to the Vice President flying in to personally fire me, citing that I was too “immature” for the position I was given.

After taking some time off to reflect on what I did wrong and get my head on straight, I went to work for a prominent casual dining restaurant. This time around, I played by the rules, was always at work on time, and went above and beyond to prove that I was a valued asset to the company. It paid off, as I quickly became a lead trainer at new restaurant openings and was sent all over the country to open new restaurants and restructure troubled kitchens. I eventually became an assistant manager, flourished in that position, and became a General Manager. I followed all the rules the franchise owner had in place, and even fired my kitchen manager when I found out they were manipulating inventory numbers so they could make their bonus. When it became time to move on to do my own thing, I gave ample notice that I was leaving, was thanked by the owner for my years of hard work, and was told I was welcomed back anytime.

I then went on to invest a large sum of my savings into our family-owned restaurant to become a 40-percent owner of the company. It took about a year before I fell back into the same mindset I had when I was 19. However, this time around I didn’t have anyone to put me in check. I screwed up a food order. So what? I had nobody to answer to. I showed up late to open the restaurant. So what? I had nobody to answer to. I closed down early. So what? I had nobody to answer to. I showed up so hung over that I could barely function. So what? I had nobody to answer to.

After seeing what I was doing was hurting not only my livelihood, but also the livelihood of my employees, I realized I had to change my ways. It took quite a while to reverse the consequences of my actions, but eventually I was able to rebuild the business back to a point where it was turning a very nice profit. But even turning the restaurant back around couldn’t repair the damage done to the relationships with my family members with whom I had worked; I ended up selling back my stake of the restaurant for a fraction of what I infused into it and lost more money than many people make in a year.

After taking three months off to take a much needed break, sell my house, buy a new house and get married, I went back to work. This time, I found myself back at the bottom of the food chain as a bartender and working my way back up the corporate ladder. Who am I working for you may ask? The only company I left on good graces with over five years ago.

So if you have made it this far into the article, you may be wondering why I believe Johnson and I have so much in common. To answer your question, it is because my situation parallels Anthony Johnson’s MMA career.

Johnson was a hot prospect when he was with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Well, as long as he made weight. During his tenure with the Zuffa-owned company, he missed the welterweight limit twice before making the move to middleweight, which was a shift that many believe he should have come much sooner. In his 185-pound debut against Vitor Belfort at UFC 142, Johnson missed weight by 11 pounds, but Belfort agreed to go ahead with the fight. Johnson was submitted in the first round, then was fired by UFC President Dana White, which surprised nearly nobody. Not soon after his release from the UFC, Titan FC owner Joe Kelly was quick to pick up the high-profile fighter to bolster the roster of his Midwest-based promotion.

Leading into his Titan FC debut, “Rumble” was very adamant that he would and could continue to fight at middleweight. This statement ended up being an epic fail on his behalf. He missed weight for a fourth time as a professional, as he weighed in at 195 pounds for his “Rumbleweight” bout this past Friday night at Titan FC 22 against David Branch. Johnson was fined $4,000 for missing weight, then went on to win a lackluster unanimous decision in his promotional debut.

At this point of time, one must wonder why, after Johnson showed a level of professionalism that makes Paul Daley look like a saint, promoters are willing to take a risk on “Rumble.” He has shown time and time again that making weight is apparently not as important to him as making a paycheck, or perhaps not as important as making that seventh trip through the buffet at Golden Corral.

Or maybe I’m too quick to vilify Johnson. Maybe there is a legitimate reason why he consistently is unable to make weight. Perhaps he has a health issue that he doesn’t know about—or is refusing to acknowledge—that is preventing him from making whatever contract weight he is supposed to be competing at. Or maybe I’m too late to vilify him and he really doesn’t care about making weight, as long as he’s getting paid and one day becomes the “Rumbleweight” champion.

As I pointed out earlier by my own personal experience, having talent does not supersede being young and dumb. Both Johnson and myself have made some horrible decisions in our respective career paths. However, we are both young enough to make the changes necessary to correct ourselves before we burn every bridge we have built. In my situation, I have recognized my errors and fixed them so that I can once again be a valued asset in the workforce. At the age of 28, Johnson still has many years left to compete at a high level, but he must face the fact that if he continues in his current ways, it will become more and more difficult for promoters to take a chance on a fighter who routinely chooses not to follow the rules. Perhaps there will come a time where the only promotion he will be able to fight for will be the yet to be created “Rumble Fighting Championships.”

In closing, I took my mom to an open house at the vocational school I attended during my junior and senior years of high school. My electronics teacher, Mr. Jim Stewart, told my mom when she asked how I was doing, and I quote, “Jason is incredibly bright and will be able to do anything he wants in life if he pulls his head out of his ass.”

Perhaps Johnson should follow the advice offered by my teacher 14 years ago.

Photo: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (Stuart Cooper)

This piece was authored by Jason Schielke. You can find Jason on Twitter: @JasonSchielke

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