For several years Eryk Anders (11-4) was regarded as a fast-moving prospect in the pro MMA ranks. Those are the days when fighters dream of what it will be like if and when they get their call up to the big leagues.
When the former University of Alabama football player finally did get his crack at the UFC, he made an immediate impact. Anders won his first two bouts inside the UFC’s cage, back in 2017, and stayed undefeated.
Looking back at when he was a prospect on the outside looking in, Anders told Yahoo Sports that fighting in the UFC has been everything he ever hoped it would be, and more.
“Man, I think everything exceeded my expectations,” he said, ahead of Saturday’s tilt against Vinicius Moreira (9-2) in the preliminary card of UFC Minneapolis (6 p.m. ET, ESPN).
“I’ve had a lot of good fights and fought almost as much as I’ve wanted to fight. I’m coming up on my two-year anniversary in the UFC and this is my eighth fight with them so that’s four times a year which is what I like to fight. I felt like I wouldn’t get to fight as much in the UFC because there’s so many people on the roster but I think they enjoy the way I’ve fought.”
Anders’ activity has indeed been remarkable, especially considering that he hasn’t been completely injury-free.
“I’m pretty well put together,” he continued.
“I think everybody has the aches and pains and things like that, but that is what it is. I’ve broken my hand and had elbow surgery last year, so there are things that have sidelined me for a bit, but overall I’ve been able to stay active, and recover well to get back in there.”
After surging through his first two UFC fights with victories, Anders met one of the greatest fighters of all-time in former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida. Machida earned a split-decision win over the American, and in so doing, handed Anders his first professional MMA loss.
Anders rebounded well after that, beating Tim Williams by knockout, but since then has lost three straight contests to top-tier competition. Though losses are new to Anders in MMA, the lifelong elite athlete had gone through plenty of adversity and ups and downs prior to those defeats.
Competing at high levels for decades taught Anders how to bounce back mentally and develop a short memory.
“I’ve got a 24 hour rule,” he explained. “Win or lose, 24 hours after the fight I get over it. The excitement is gone and I’ve got to get back to work if possible. You’ve just got to keep it moving. Every fight has a life and history of its own. Just because you have a good performance in one fight doesn’t mean you’ll win the next one, and just because you lose one doesn’t mean that you’ll lose the next one. If you sit and dwell on it, it can affect your training.”
As expected, Anders is enthused to be getting back in the Octagon on Saturday, and it isn’t just because he likes this particular match up. “I just like that there’s going to be a fight,” he saiid.
“Every fight and every opponent presents their own challenges. [Moreira] is super tall and long so closing that distance and getting in close with be important. At the same time, he likes to grapple so when I get in that grappling range he’s going to try and get it to the ground. The majority of his wins have come on the ground so I think that’s going to be the chess match. He puts a lot of work getting into takedowns so staying on my feet is going to be an area of concern.”
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