Corey Anderson talks surprise move to Bellator and why MMA needs a union

After a 6-year run in the UFC, Bellator's newest light heavyweight contender discusses his big move with Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole.

Video Transcript

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KEVIN IOLE: Hey, folks. I am Kevin Iole. Welcome back. I appreciate you joining me. And my next guest is a guy that's been in the news recently.

It kind of came as a surprise to me. Normally, you hear fights are coming up or title shots or whatever. Corey Anderson, my guest, the light heavyweight contender, just moved from UFC over to Bellator, kind of a surprise move-- even maybe a surprise a little bit to you, huh?

COREY ANDERSON: Yeah. It all happened like a whirlwind. And literally within three hours, I went from talking about a potential fight to being signed to Bellator. It happened that fast, but I'm grateful for how smooth of a process it was, and especially grateful for the opportunity that I have going on and the contract that I'm getting now.

KEVIN IOLE: That was bizarre. Let's go through that. You were on a really hot streak, had won four of your last five, including wins against Glover Teixeira, Ilir Latifi, and most notably, Johnny Walker. You kind of stopped the hype train that was surrounding him. You lost to Blachowicz in February, but you he's knocking a lot of guys out.

I mean, it seemed like you were right there in that top category, and there was no clear-cut choice, maybe, to fight Jon Jones for the title. What happened? What do you understand happened, and how you went from being so close to signing another fight with the UFC to turning around and signing this deal with Bellator?

COREY ANDERSON: I figured out my own worth, and the UFC didn't see it that way. As you've seen before the Bellator news came out, I was in the social media, what, last week because of the health issues I went through after the Jan Blachowicz fight, ended up in the hospital, a lot of heart procedures. And just talking to my family, my parents, my brothers, sisters, my wife, looking at my son, I kind of realized-- I've always said it before. I'm not fighting for money. I don't care about the money. I'm fighting just to get to the belt. And I feel like that hurt me to the fact to where after this incident happened, and I really looked at how much I was making for these fights they wanted me to take, it wasn't worth it.

I realized sitting in that hospital bed, looking at my son and my wife sitting there, worried-- and my son, he don't really know what's going on. But one day, he's going to look back and see this. And am I going to be able tell him it was worth it, son? We did all this, and now we've got this life that we live.

Or am I going to be sitting here, might be drooling, talking like Muhammad Ali? And he's still got to struggle to get college paid for. My wife's still working every day to make bills meet. It was kind of like, do we want to be like that, or do we want to be better off for our life? We can get that belt and say, hey, we became a champ, and look at the life we lived, or just to say, I'm the champ, and we still struggling.

I figured out my worth, told Ali that. It's not worth it to keep taking these fights, these pointless fights. Some of these fights, it was just-- like I said to somebody else, I was number four in the world, making money like it was my fourth fight, when that shouldn't have been the case.

I've told other coaches after I signed with Bellator, what my contract was I left, and they kind of looked at me like, are you serious? That's it? And I didn't feel it was right.

KEVIN IOLE: Interesting. You know, I think we have extremes. If you look at boxing, I think a lot of guys get paid-- they don't sell tickets. They don't sell pay-per-views. And they're paid this astronomical amount of money. And then, you go on the MMA side, and a lot of times, it's the opposite. Guys that sell tickets and whatnot still don't get that big thing.

How do you think we get a happy medium, where fighters are paid what they're worth, you're compensated for the risk you take every time you step into the cage, but that it's fair for both sides? How do you think we get to that? Do you need a union? What is it that you need to have happen in MMA [INAUDIBLE]?

COREY ANDERSON: I don't know if we're going to get it equally everywhere else. Yeah, you need a union, and just like the union works for the working world. They go on strike until they give them the payment they want, or they get the benefits they need. You work a certain job, so that should be governing pay, prevailing wage. Different things happen for different reasons.

But right now, when you have somebody kind of monopolizing one big organization, which is the UFC, where they can kind of play that monopoly game, because they know if you won't fight for this, we can find some younger kid who's going to fight for even less and bring him in. Or you can do like I do and go to Bellator. Go somewhere where they're going to pay you your worth. The name isn't as big.

You still have them talking about, oh, you downgraded, blah, blah, blah. You went backwards. No, I went forward. I did the calculations-- calculated risks. And this calculation is worth the risk.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, I guess from a competitive standpoint, obviously, they have Ryan Bader as the champion, who is a very good fighter, made a great reputation in the UFC, then went over to Bellator, and won both the light heavyweight and heavyweight championship. How do you look at the rest of the division there? And do you feel like it has the kind of depth that'll give you the kind of fights not only that you can win, but I mean, that will make a name for you, that people will say, I want to see this guy fight? Because it takes two to make a great fight.

COREY ANDERSON: I mean, you make the name off your performance. Like Johnny Walker had his biggest name, once, at UFC, but if you look at that performance, it didn't look like-- you look at the fight, it looked like he wasn't much of anything. If you didn't know who Johnny Walker was, and you saw that fight, you would have been like, wow, this guy just beat can, because one punch, and that was it.

But the way I see it is if I go out there and do what I do and dominate, I could make a name for myself. But as for depth in the roster with Bellator, you got Ryan Bader. You got the kid he's fighting. You got Lyoto Machida. You have Phil Davis.

There's other guys coming up, guys that started there, that's actually building theyself up, who's going to be pretty good guys. I've been studying a little bit of the film of the guys from 205 there. There's a lot of-- some that's kind of like, oh, whatever. And then, there's some that's like, OK, this kid is young. And if he keeps developing, you can tell from the way he's moving right now, he's got what it takes to be good by the time he gets up to fighting Bader-- I can't remember the kid Bader's fighting-- Phil Davis or me or whatever it is.

It's like by that time, he could be a legit guy. Like if you're on the cusps, maybe you get offered to leave Bellator, he could go to that top tier in the UFC and steal the show. So I'm pretty excited about the opportunities of different people they have for me to fight.

KEVIN IOLE: I want to check with you. You made a pretty big leap. You had a tough 2017, lost fights to Jimi Manuwa and OSP. And it seemed like that really spurred you, and you became a different fighter after that.

And I don't know what really happened. How do you look at, say, how you fought in 2017, the losses you suffered, and then turn around and the string of good wins that you had after that? What was the difference between 2017, and then, 2018 and '19?

COREY ANDERSON: Mindset. In 2017, when I fought OSP and Jimi-- I know when I fought Jimi-- I remember when the manager called me, I was back home visiting, and he hit me with that. In my mind-- I remember Jimi ranked like third, fourth-- in my mind, it was like, oh, man, that's a big jump. I ain't that guy. I ain't ready to be there yet. I ain't that good yet.

But I took it. I faked it untl I made it. And when I got there in the fight, everybody that I know said, that wasn't you in that fight. You can tell you were scared. And I was.

I kept telling myself, just don't get hit. Don't get hit. Don't get hit. Don't get hit. And I moved into his big power punch.

And OSP, it was some similar situation. I had Patrick Cummins set for that fight, so that was somebody I felt like, oh, I could definitely go out there and dog pack Cummins, as I did later on. Like, I can go out there and dominate this dude. No problem.

And then, two weeks before, we get switched to OSP. And I knew I was capable of beating OSP, but at the same time, I remembered training with OSP. Like this kid's strong, and he fought with Jon Jones. He's pretty good, too. He went five rounds with Jon Jones.

And I went, and I put that aside. But I knew what I was capable of doing, skill-wise, and I dominated-- I felt like I was dominating all the way up until I wasn't. And because of lack of confidence of the fact-- like if I knew in my mind I was winning like I was, just go out there and keep wrestling. I'm kind of-- I'll take him down every time. Why question your shot?

KEVIN IOLE: Right.

COREY ANDERSON: And that's what it was. I started questioning, like, I don't think I can take him back down again, so we're going to stay to the outside. And we're going to move around. And we're going to box him. And I lit into a [INAUDIBLE] but if I had confidence to believe I took this guy down three, four times already; let's do it again, I would have took him down and finished the round winning.

KEVIN IOLE: I think it's fascinating what you were able to do, though, because success breeds success. But also, failure sometimes breeds failure. And you said you were doubting yourself in the OSP fight. And yet, you turned it around.

You came back against Cummins and won that. And then, you really went into that stretch, where I think it's probably the best three fights of your career, Teixeira, Latifi, and Walker. So, how did you overcome the mental hurdle of having those self-doubts and thinking other guys were better, and put yourself on the path to being a great fighter?

COREY ANDERSON: Just believing I'm here for one reason, and that's to be the best. I've got the best coaches. I've got some of the best training partners.

Another thing is I was traveling to other gyms, and I was going with other top tier guys there. And I was putting in work. I had been to different places with PFL champs and different people. I've trained with Bader in the past and stuff like that.

And I knew what I was capable of, just like now. When I went out there and trained with DC recently, it was like that was just an eye-opener and experience. I'm out here hanging out with this guy. He told me himself, like, bro, there's no reason why you shouldn't be the champ. You are good.

And when you have experience doing those things, fighting or sparring with different people, granted it's just sparring, but you can feel when somebody about to fight to get you back. Like, alright, I got to get this kid back. And they still not capable of it. And that's when I realized, why am I losing to these dudes?

KEVIN IOLE: Right.

COREY ANDERSON: Why am I losing these fights? I'm the best. I have to go out here and show it. And then, like I said, the confidence started skyrocketing.

Now, I went to Jan Blachowicz fight. I got too over-confident. I got cocky. And it took me back to a spot where I was at in college.

And then, I remember coming to after getting knocked out. That was the first thing I thought. I got too big. I let my head get too big to my britches, and I thought there was nothing this kid could do because I was that good. And he showed me there is. And that was just finding that humbling confidence. And that's where I'm back at.

KEVIN IOLE: So when do you-- have you talked to Scott Coker? I saw, obviously, you two met. You put pictures up on social media. But have you talk to him specifically about a fight, and when do we think we'll see you make your Bellator debut?

COREY ANDERSON: No, we haven't talked specifically. Like I said, it was all fast. It ain't like they had a plan on me coming over. They can get me going. It literally happened within two or three hours-- not even.

It was actually-- it happened within an hour and a half, to be honest. And then, I found out that he was out there in the area. I was in California helping DC, and I heard he was out there, and I made some calls to see if we could meet up. So everything happened within 12 hours, so it's kind of hard for them to go from signing to have a contract to already have a fight set--

KEVIN IOLE: Right.

COREY ANDERSON: --within 12 hours. But he definitely said he wanted to get me in there soon. They got an MTV deal. They're going to switch over-- excuse me-- mid-September, so he wanted to get me on after that so he can get more eyes on the opportunities. And, like I said, it doesn't really matter who it is at this point. I'm making the money worth any person they put in front of me, they better be ready, because I'm ready to go out there and fight.

KEVIN IOLE: Let me end up following up on just one other thing, since you brought the money up one more time. I hear a lot of criticism of MMA promoters for the show money and the win money. That doesn't happen in other sports. You get paid what you get paid to fight.

Now, in this, you have to win to get the extra bit of money. A, in this Bellator contract, do you have show and win money? And B, do you think that the promoter should be forced to do away with that and just pay you all your money for fighting, as opposed to having to get half of it if you win?

COREY ANDERSON: Right now, where we're starting off, I do have show and win, but it's still-- the show alone is more than I would make in the UFC if I won. Let's put it that way. So, yeah, like I said, I got my worth. But when you get to a certain point, it-- then, it would flatten out. The contract goes from show to win to just a flat pay.

And I feel if they could do that, if you start off with a show and win until you make a certain amount of money, and then you get a flat rate, that's fine. But if you're at the beginning of your career or whatever it is, I understand getting to the title-contingent and title fights. If you make it in show, that's more incentive to make you go out there and fight more, and as well, when you lose, you don't keep that second pay, you kind of get that fire in your ass.

It makes you want to go out there and do better next time so we get both those checks. I leave with both checks. But yeah, you can do without it and pay guys with one big, flat rate. But I like the fact that starting off, you've got to-- to get that, you've got to earn--

KEVIN IOLE: Little motivation.

COREY ANDERSON: [INAUDIBLE] Huh?

KEVIN IOLE: Little motivation.

COREY ANDERSON: Yes. [INAUDIBLE]. Say I'm getting $50,000. I'm going to get $50,000 just to go out there, and [INAUDIBLE] regardless if I win or lose, I'm only getting $50,000. So I'll just go out there and if one starts getting hard, I'll just quit. I'm still getting paid the same. But it's like, OK, if I get another $30,000 if I win, I'm about to go out there and put it on this guy so I can leave with two checks, and he leave with one, so.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, let's wrap it up with this. I always thought you're a guy that's changed nicknames a few times in your career. And I love the 25/8 nickname that you had.

Now, you've got rid of that. What's it going to be in Bellator? Are you going to go with Overtime, or what's it going to be in Bellator?

COREY ANDERSON: It's still Overtime. The overtime is 25/8. It's the same thing.

Beastin' 25/8 was like, you know, those people that say, oh, I do everything 24/7. I'm always in the gym 24/7. This is this. And like my brother said, people say that all the time, but nobody's at the gym like you. Everybody else 24/7, and you 25/8.

And it's just kind of like, boom, right then, we made shirts. I was in college, and it just went. And then, the coaches and Frank and everybody, like, yo, it's too long. Beastin' 25, that's too much to say. We've got to figure out something that's short.

And Frank Edgar named it Overtime. And it's like that's the same thing. It works. I'm always in the gym, putting in extra work, so that's it. I'm putting in overtime. OT it is.

KEVIN IOLE: We didn't know the talents that Frankie Edgar had. Good to him. That's awesome. Corey, I want to thank you. Congratulations on your new deal, and best of luck in your Bellator career.

COREY ANDERSON: Thank you, Kevin.

KEVIN IOLE: Thank you, brother.