A state appellate court ruled Wednesday that former University of Tennessee star linebacker A.J. Johnson and a former teammate have the right to go after the social media history of the woman who accuses them of rape.
Former Tennessee football player A.J. Johnson gave his first interview since he was charged with rape in November of 2014.
Johnson was scheduled to make his Mixed Martial Arts debut Saturday night at Valor Fights 47 at the Civic Coliseum, but was not medically cleared after suffering an injury prior to the event.
Johnson and former teammate Michael Williams are accused of raping a female UT athlete during a party at Johnson’s apartment after a UT game. The former Vols say the sex was consensual and that the accuser, who was dating another football player while carrying on a side affair with Johnson, is lying.
Johnson and Williams are each charged with two counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aiding and abetting the other in those aggravated rapes. The trial, which has been delayed, is now scheduled for July 16.
“I don’t have a comment on that,” Johnson said of the trial. “I’m just out here living life, and doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
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At the time of the incident, Johnson was a senior linebacker, and Williams was a sophomore defensive back. The two were suspended by UT and later dismissed.
Johnson addressed the crowd at center ring during the first intermission, and later made an appearance with C.J. Baker after Baker defeated fellow amateur Ricky Jones by TKO. Johnson was originally scheduled to fight Baker.
“It’s been a pretty cool transition. Fun transition,” Johnson said of his move from training for football to MMA. “I’m staying in shape. Being able to stay active.”
Johnson said he was introduced to MMA through UFC fighter and Knoxville resident Scott Holtzman.
“He’s the one. I went to gym with him one time,” Johnson said. “I got a good workout with him. Then after that, I was like, ‘Man, I think I can do this.’ ”
Johnson emphasized the challenge of learning the tactical side of the sport.
“It’s like chess,” Johnson said. “You really got to think when you’re in there. You can’t just go in there and start swinging and going crazy. You’ve got to think and have your mind come clear when you’re in there.”
Johnson said he doesn’t have a clear plan for where MMA fighting can take him, or if a career in the sport is a possibility.
“There’s no telling right now,” Johnson said. “My goal is to pick up a few amateur fights. If I’m not able to get into a (NFL) training camp this season, I’m going far with it.”
Results from the event include a dominant win for Olivia Parker, who defeated Erica Camp with a first round TKO in just 2 minutes, 4 second. Parker, a teacher at Heritage High School, is now 5-0 as an amateur.
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“It was a great fight,” Parker said to the crowd after the match. “She (Camp) was game. She was a really good opponent.”
MMA fighter Olivia Parker, of Seymour, will fight this Saturday at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum.
Parker began fighting in mixed martial arts just four years ago, and has since lost 150 pounds training as a fighter.
Other results include a welterweight, first round KO victory for Jason King over Steven Haag. Lightweight fighter Keith Olson defeated Alex Riggs by submission in the first round, and Shamir Peshawa earned her first professional victory with a win over Natalie King by unanimous decision.
Shamir Peshewa is a female MMA fighter who trains out of Knoxville Martial Arts Academy on Martin Mill Pike in Knoxville Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017.
Michael Patrick/Knoxville News Sentinel
Mark Alewine is a freelance contributor.