COREY ANDERSON says Athony 'Rumble' Johnson will be in his "heart and mind" in the cage tonight following his tragic death.
The Bellator light-heavyweight revealed he only spoke to the former UFC fighter just three weeks before he passed away after a long battle with illness.
He reportedly suffered organ failure due to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis.
But only recently 'Rumble' was sharing his pearls of wisdom with Anderson whowill rematch with Vadim Nemkov at Bellator 288 in his hometown of Chicago.
The first fight between Russia's Nemkov and Anderson was declared a no-contest near the end of the third round after an accidental headbutt.
It was Anderson who alerted officials about the clash of heads which stopped the fight and his chances of potentially being declared the winner.
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But he doesn't regret his decision, particularly given the recent death of his friend Johnson.
Anderson said: "We just lost a great in the MMA game, Rumble Johnson, and it just put it all into perspective again.
"I talked to him like three weeks ago and he was like ' bro I'm good bro I've got a liver transplant. I'm gonna beat this, I've got medicine,
"'I'm feeling better. I'm good. I'm staying prayed up.'
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"And the next thing I hear is he’s dead and I didn't ever talk to him again.
"It makes you put in perspective we only got one life you've got to take care of yourself. Take care of your body, your mind and make sure your family is straight before anything else."
Rumble's last fight was on May 7, 2021, when he defeated Jose Augusto.
In September 2021, he pulled out of his Bellator MMA title fight against Vadim Nemkov, scheduled for October 16, due to illness.
But he made time to help Anderson his camp ahead of tonight's eagerly anticipated rematch.
Anderson added: "He’s on my mind and my heart.
"Especially because about six weeks out from the fight he messaged me and was like 'bro, I just rewatched the fight.
"'You've got to keep your hands up. No mistakes and this fight is yours. I want you to go out there keep your hands up and do what you do.
"'You're gonna get your belt bro, go get your belt and I took that advice into my camp.
"Imagine in the fight if I'm keeping my hands up, especially if I end up getting a knock out because my hands up and I counter, thanks to something that he said – it would be big.
"It would stand out and be exciting. I'd have to give him a shout out even though he won't be here to see."
Anderson had his own medical scare after suffering a series of health issues after he was brutally knocked by Jan Blachowicz in February 2020.
The 30-year-old revealed that he had a lingering concussion from his defeat to Blachowicz that caused him to collapse after a long hike.
Anderson smashed his face hard on a gravel road and was rushed to hospital.
Doctors later informed him that his heart had stopped beating and it was in danger of happening again.
He has now called for improved concussion protocols in MMA.
He said: "I remember it vividly. I came to and the doctor asked me where are we? What state? Who was the president? What's the date right now?
"I answered and he goes 'oh, you're good, you're fine, take a few days off and go back to your life.'
"He didn't suspend me for three months and I remember I was in New Mexico for a week.
" I remember I just collapsed and hit my face in the concrete.
"The whole right side of my face didn't have skin because I completely fell on the gravel.
"When tests came back it was all down to just a concussion. It just really put into perspective.
"I had a kid at the time and now I have two kids. You've only got one life."
Watch Corey Anderson in action at BELLATOR 288: Nemkov vs. Anderson 2 live on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website on Friday, November 18, from 23:00pm GMT”
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