Former All-American collegiate wrestler Kelly Anundson takes the next step in his fledgling MMA career tonight in the opening round of the Bellator light heavyweight tournament. The 7-2 MMA fighter takes on UFC veteran Rodney Wallace in Oklahoma at Bellator 121, with a chance to advance in the tournament and get one step closer to a title shot.
And though it might seem like Anundson may have an edge in this multi-month tournament because of his life time of wrestling meet and tournament experience, the Newberry college grappler knows that the two are different beats altogether.
"Well, this Bellator tournament is not really a tournament like wrestling tournaments, per se, because in wrestling you might have six or seven matches in one day," he explains to Cagewriter.
"I look at the Bellator tournament as three individual fights."
The 29 year-old has only been in MMA for four years and knows that his opponent tonight has a major experience advantage. That said, the American Top Team fighter believes his hunger to succeed will make the difference.
"Wallace is a veteran. He's been in wars and fought in the big show. He has experience," Anundson admits.
"I’ve just got to go out there implement my game plan. He is a little older. Maybe his motivation is not there like it used to be. I still have something to prove. Every day I have a purpose and I believe that I want it more than this guy does."
Anundson has actually had opportunities to fight his fellow Carolina native Wallace in the past. Not only will career advancement be on the line, then, but so will regional bragging rights.
"This is actually a really big fight," he says.
"For me and for him. We're both from the Carolinas and so promoters have been trying to set this fight up since I was an amateur. But with as good as he is and experienced as he is, I was not going to fight him for $500. I always knew this fight was going to happen, though. I've been really preparing for it since the beginning of my career. I have teammates who have fought him as well so I've seen so much film on him that I know exactly what he is going to do."
Anundson also believes that he knows exactly what he himself will do, and that's win. His transition from wrestling to MMA was, at first quite easy, but then hard.
But the wrestler has now reached the point where, having putting in time with the pros at ATT, he is confident no matter where the fight goes.
"I kinda breezed my way through my amateur fights. I didn’t get punched but three or four times in total. When I was ready to turn pro, I came down here to Florida and started getting my ass beat by Thiago Silva and Hector Lombard," he remembers.
"At first, it was really hard to want to train when you're getting your ass kicked so hard. But, you keep going and keep going. The last two years, I've developed as a fighter. I feel comfortable standing with anybody, I feel comfortable doing Jiu Jitsu with anybody, I feel comfortable doing whatever it takes."