Corey Anderson no doubt knows just how close he came to winning the Bellator MMA light heavyweight championship, plus a million dollars, last year.
In April of 2022, Anderson was up on the scorecards against champ Vadim Nemkov in the light heavyweight grand prix final. But just prior to the end of round three, an accidental clash of heads occurred, while Anderson was on top — dominant as he had been throughout the fight.
“Overtime” signalled the ref, who halted the the bout just five seconds prior to the end of round three. Five more seconds — if Anderson had not alerted the ref, frankly, for a foul that impacted Nemkov more than it did himself — and the bout would have gone to the scorecards, given the champ was unable to continue. Anderson would have won a decision.
Instead, the fight was ruled a no contest, and run back later in the year, with Nemkov claiming a five round decision.
Watching back the pair’s fights, “the biggest thing I see is I didn’t go out there in the second fight and do what I did in the first fight. I kind of took the camp a little too lightly, I guess you could say,” Anderson told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview. “I was so focused on how much I dominated in the first one, and in my mind the second wasn’t going to be much different. And I didn’t need to go into a crazy hard camp like I did to prepare [for the first one], and just needed to stay healthy to make it there.”
Then, admitted Anderson, he “fell short. Found out, can’t do that. I’ve got to prepare for every fight the same way.”
Months have passed since then. Nemkov defends his title against Yoel Romero at Bellator 297 on Friday; Anderson (16-6, 1NC) returns to action as well, paired up with former champ and fellow UFC ex-pat Phil Davis.
“It’s an interesting fight. Every time I bring it up, everybody looks at me like ‘you never fought Phil?’ Because we were both in the UFC at the same time, we were both at the top of the top when we were in there,” Anderson noted.
Interesting as well because Anderson is uniquely familiar with Davis’ style. After all, he was once hired to replicate it.
“I’m not going to say I feel like I have the upper hand because of him, but I resembled him for the Bader fight, both Bader fights [with Davis]. Bader flew me out to resemble him both times.” Anderson had plenty of time watching tape of Davis as a result. “I already kind of knew exactly what to expect from watching his film, and also I trained with Rashad Evans before he fought him as well.”
Anderson has taken the things those fighters did well against Davis, plus what he got from mimicking Davis and watching tape, and filtered it down in his own fight camp. “Now I just got to figure out how to keep what what I would have threw against Bader or Evans from landing on myself.”
Watch our full interview with Bellator 297’s Corey Anderson above. The event takes place this Friday, June 16, 2023 at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL.