Eryk Anders Hopes 1-2 Combo with Harris Can Bring UFC to Alabama

Former Crimson Tide football player Eryk Anders returns to the octagon this Saturday at UFC on ESPN 8, marching into battle alongside friend and teammate Walt Harris. The pair are among the few fighters representing that state at the highest level at the moment (Bellator’s John Salter would be another), and Anders hopes a strong showing Saturday might lure the UFC there.

“I hope so. I think if we go out there and we both get finishes in devastating fashion as we’re both accustomed to doing, I think that if the UFC comes to Birmingham, or wherever in Alabama, it’s going to be a sellout event,” Anders told media outlets including Cageside Press at the event’s virtual media day this week. “Everybody, the whole southeast, I think we’ll come in, travel, spend money, ticket sales, views, all that good stuff. So, yeah, I think the Alabama is an untapped market. The UFC hasn’t been there in a really, really long time. So, I think with two guys from the state, having a lot of success in the sport at the same time, a lot of people will show up and support it.”

Success on Saturday, in Jacksonville, Florida, will mean getting the better of Poland’s Krzysztof Jotko. Like Anders himself, Jotko enters the night on a two-fight win streak. Normally, it would be a fairly straightforward assignment to prepare for, as much as fights ever really are. But the added wrinkle is that teammate Harris is returning from the devastating loss of his step-daughter, a kidnapping and murder case that was well-publicized.

Managing emotions suddenly becomes all the more important. As Anders explained, “it’s kind of hard to ignore the elephant in the room. Everybody knows what happened, but I will say that him being in the gym, I think— when he’s in the gym he’s one of the guys, man. We make fun of him, he talks trash. There’s a lot of camaraderie that goes into this into this.”

At the same time, admitted Anders, “we all kind of took that hit. His daughter’s babysat my children before. It is a little personal for everybody in the gym. And I think the the camaraderie and being around the fellows and the coaches and training kind of helps get your mind off those things.”

“There’s no telling what the emotions are going to be like on Fight Night,” he continued. “But I think right now everybody’s focused, dialed in on the things that they need to be focused and dialed in on, but I think it would be very ignorant of me to say that on Fight Night— you know the emotions might be a little bit different. But we’re not there yet so I can’t tell you how he’s gonna feel or how I’m gonna feel. But right now I think everything is calm cool and collected, and a couple of assassins are gonna go out there and put in work on Saturday.”