Corey Anderson came up through the collegiate wrestling system believing that if he beat those in front of him, he’d succeed. That’s how he viewed a future in mixed martial arts, spurred on by working with welterweight legend Matt Hughes.
It didn’t turn out that way. As is well known by now, Anderson landed in the UFC, having won The Ultimate Fighter 19 back in 2014. He flirted with title contention, never more so than while on a four-fight win streak from 2018-19.
The UFC never seemed to promote “Overtime,” however. At least not how you’d expect the organization to push a top light heavyweight. Which is no doubt why Anderson (13-5) now says he feels free in his new home of Bellator MMA.
“It feels like I’m starting all over. It feels like my first fight ever. None of that pressure, none of that extra burden is on your back,” he said of his arrival in Bellator, speaking at a Bellator 251 virtual media day on Tuesday. “You don’t have the president over here talking trash about you, you don’t have the commentators saying negative things, saying good things, [you’re not] trying to impress somebody. You don’t have to worry about making the needle move to get a title fight, like they told me there. I’m here to fight, and I feel like if I win, I move forward.”
And that’s all Anderson seems to want. Fight, win, move forward. His reference to a president talking trash, of course, was all about his rocky relationship with Dana White. But there were no doubt other factors in Anderson requesting his release from the UFC earlier this year.
For one, when it comes to fighting in Bellator, “it’s the same risk but higher reward now,” said Anderson. Of course, he’s still putting his health at risk by competing in the cage. But when it comes to remuneration, “[Bellator’s] first offer was just a big amount of money compared to what the UFC wanted to pay me,” Anderson said.
First out of the gate for Corey Anderson in Bellator is a legend in Melvin Manhoef. But Manhoef’s legacy in the sport isn’t something Anderson is focused on. “It’s just another fight to me,” Anderson stated. But it hasn’t always been that way.
“Fighting Shogun [Rua], that was one, the name of the legend kind of struck me, going into the fight,” admitted the Illinois native. “That was kind of like a shocker for me.”
Manhoef, however, was never really on Corey Anderson’s radar. “I’d never really seen any of Melvin’s fights until they told me that’s who I was fighting,” Anderson said ahead of the pair’s bout Thursday. “So as for looking at him as a legend, I can’t take away what he’s done in the sport, he’s definitely beat some guys, he’s a legend in combat sports. But that legendary factor doesn’t register in my mind, because he wasn’t a person I watched growing up.”
Watch the full Bellator 251 virtual media day press scrum with Corey Anderson above. The event takes place this Thursday, November 4 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The main card airs live on CBS Sports Network.