Towards the end of his UFC run, Corey Anderson admittedly “lost focus on what I was fighting for.”
It didn’t end well. Speaking at this week’s Bellator 257 media day, Anderson put it bluntly. “We all saw what happened when I went into Jan [Blachowicz]. I didn’t fight for my family, I didn’t fight for myself. I went out to there prove a point, and I paid the ultimate cost.”
Anderson (14-5) had been on the cusp of a title challenge, on a four-fight win streak when Blachowicz knocked him out inside of a round at UFC Rio Rancho in February 2020. After that, “Overtime” requested his release from a promotion he had long been at odds with, and jumped from the UFC to Bellator.
Getting back to work with a TKO win against Melvin Manhoef upon his arrival in Bellator MMA, “the refocus is back,” said Anderson. “I spent so much time with my son during the quarantine, watching him grow, building that relationship. Just remembering, this is why I’m doing everything. Every move I make is for my family, so I can give them a better life.”
Anderson now has a baby girl as well, who he delivered himself. “Now it’s really like, I’ve got to go out here, I’ve got to be smart, I’ve got to do everything so I can get home safely to my family, and bring home two checks for two kids and my family.”
Plenty has been written about Anderson’s rocky relationship with the UFC. The promotion never seemed all that high on him, perhaps because of his wrestling-heavy style and lack of big finishes. It wasn’t until he knocked out Johnny Walker in late 2019 that they really bothered to market him, booking him in the main event against Blachowicz.
That’s a stark contrast to how things are in his new home. Anderson headlined his first Bellator card. He’s now part of the promotion’s stacked light heavyweight grand prix.
“I was valued already over here before even meeting anybody,” Anderson exclaimed. “My manager let people know that I got out of the UFC, and within an hour, hour and a half, Bellator had hit us with a huge offer that we couldn’t pass [up].”
That showed Anderson how much the promotion valued him as a fighter. Then, the promotion lined up a face-to-face meeting set up with Scott Coker for him. “In just 24 hours, a new promotion had offered me my worth in money, reached out and actually talked to me to see what my plans are, what I was looking forward to doing, and then they wanted to meet with me face-to-face. Which is something in my seven years with the UFC, I still hadn’t had a face-to-face meeting with Dana White.”
Anderson is booked against Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov on Friday, the lone unknown name in Bellator’s light heavyweight grand prix. That unknown quantity has Anderson a heavy favorite, which might put the pressure on in some cases — but not in this one. “I don’t put pressure on myself anymore,” Anderson stated, noting he took the same approach to the Manhoef fight.
“It could be the number one ranked guy, it could be the lowest ranked guy in the world. The plan is, go out there and fight like Corey Anderson fights,” said Anderson. “Go out there and be the mixed martial artist you train to be every day. Don’t go out there and fight down to the level of your opponent, fight up to the level of the champion.”
Corey Anderson faces Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov this Friday, April 16 at Bellator 257. The main card airs live on Showtime (and right here on Cageside Press for Canadian viewers) following online prelims.