In a stadium of 33,000 at Tele2 Arena, you’d be hard pressed to find more than the four or five teammates in Anthony Johnson’s Corner that were thrilled with the result of UFC on Fox 14’s main event. Everything from the “Go Alex” signs, to the UFC logo imposed over the Swedish Flag, to Alexander Gustafsson’s face displayed on every monitor screamed support for the countryman contender. In overwhelming fashion, the main event ended just as soon as it seem to began in favor of the underdog.
As the UFC expands internationally, they have worked harder to create cards that showcase the best of national talent abroad. UFC on Fox 14 saw 3 fighters from Sweden: Nico Musoke, who lost to Albert Tumenov by unanimous decision. Akira Corassani, who lost to Sam Scilia via first round knockout. Lastly, the former #1 light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson.
A hometown hero card such as UFC on Fox 14 demonstrated the high stakes of what it means to have a competitor fight on the country’s main stage abroad. Either Gustafsson gets his hand raised to the overwhelming uproar of 33,000 countrymen, or Anthony “Rumble” Johnson silences an entire audience. When the latter happened, “Rumble” went quickly from a celebration and disbelief to really understanding the gravity of what had just transpired. He could hardly get a few sentences out to Joe Rogan in the post-fight interview before addressing the gravity of the situation.
The stakes of fighting as the hometown hero abroad are the highest of all in professional competition. With or without national support at home, the victory sides entirely with one corner or another. Stealing the show was an extraordinary feat for Anthony Johnson, but one that is nearly impossible to celebrate at the arena.