This article originally featured in Fighters Only issue 139 – read the full magazine on the Fighters Only app.
After spectacularly ending Johnny Walker’s unbeaten UFC run, Anderson is looking for a little respect and a title shot. He’s certainly moving the needle.
You are coming off a very emotional victory over the highly touted Johnny Walker at UFC 244. Your post-fight actions got a lot of reaction from the community. With all of the adrenaline and emotion pumping then to us talking today, can you reflect on the finish and the post-fight celebration?
The finish alone just felt so good because of all of the doubt and everything everybody had of me going into the fight. The media was talking against me. Nobody thought I could get it done. Everybody thought he was going to be the guy to dethrone Jon Jones and blah, blah, blah. To go out there and do it the way I did it, I knew I was going to win, but to do it the way I did was even more impressive. That is what led to all of the emotions and all of the excitement after the fight…along with all of the trash he was talking. During the post-fight interview I let all of my emotions out there. It was a relief and a release. It’s like you have a big old pimple you have been waiting to pop forever. Then it finally pops. It feels so good but at the same time I had so much pent-up anger and energy toward people and fans and the UFC. It wasn’t really thought out or planned out. It is what it is.
We are emotional beings and to be in that atmosphere – that high profile and high stress situation, it can be tough to control those emotions sometimes, right?
Exactly. I apologized immediately after the fight, as soon as I got to my phone. I know better than that. I don’t act that way. You are always supposed to act like you have been there. Perform well and act just as well as you perform. It was kind of out of character. Again, it happens. If you knew all that I had been through that week listening to the media and fans and what they had to say about me and throughout the whole year I had off , it felt good to go out there and get it done. It was my way of saying ‘F you all. What do you have to say now?’
That four-fight winning streak you are on is a hell of a run. With wins over Johnny Walker, Ilir Latifi , Glover Teixeira and Patrick Cummins, your case has to be as legit as anyone to politick for a title shot wouldn’t you say?
I mean, I have been saying it. Nobody else is doing it like me. Nobody else is beating all top 10 or top 15 205ers. Everybody I beat was 10, 4 and 3. Everybody else is beating 185ers and getting title shots. I am beating legit 205ers and they are still saying I haven’t done enough. It doesn’t make sense.
Your next scrap is lined up as you will face Jan Blachowicz in a rematch in the main event of UFC Rio Rancho on February 15. What would a win in the rematch mean? In your mind is it a definitive title shot?
That’s what it means to me. To beat him again, what do I get out of that? Especially the way I beat him before. I don’t know if I can beat him worse than I beat him the first time unless I go out there and finish him in the first few minutes like I did Johnny Walker, I don’t think there will be any way that it would be more satisfying than the first fight. I beat him pretty bad. There were two 10-8 rounds from two judges. It doesn’t get much worse than that. If I go out there and beat him again, that doesn’t get me excited. Knowing that the title fight should be next, now that will get me excited.
In a way, the rematch is a no-win situation for you. It would be tough to beat him any worse, like you said. That really puts you in a tough spot, right?
Yeah, 100 percent. Most rematches are for when fights are close. If it was a close fight that is one thing. You just see the politics of the game. It is what it is. If I want the title fight I have to play the game right. If they want me to fight him again I will go ahead and beat him again.
Dana White had said that you don’t move the needle enough. Are you now making a conscious effort to carry yourself differently in order to move the needle or are you just going to stick to what you have been doing all along?
I am going to stick to what I have been doing. Joe Rogan told me that as long as I keep winning, who cares what they say? If I go out there and win the way I know I can and get performances like I did in the last fight, the best is yet to come. There is still so much that I have learned in training over the year I was off , that I haven’t been able to show yet. I am really excited to go out there and finally get to implement my whole game.
What were your biggest improvements during that year off?
Everything. Since I was off, I didn’t have a fight coming up, so there was no reason to kill myself. I stayed in the gym every day. I focused on the things I did wrong. I watched and analyzed my past fights. I took it to my coaches and we analyzed it and fixed it. Once we fixed things, it was like, OK let’s learn some stuff. I was working with my teammates and I was sparring a lot. If I saw something I liked I wanted to learn it and add it to my game. I worked with the coaches and picked it up and added it to my game. I picked up different things from different styles, even Jon Jones. If you do something good, I will try to do it better.
Speaking of Jon Jones, it was reported that you stepped to him at an autograph signing this past summer. What are your recollections of that interaction?
He did a meet-and-greet at a place where I always do meet-and-greets and watch the fights. It was literally next door to where I train. My boys were like ‘Yo, you know Jon Jones is here.’ I was like ‘I been knowing that. Where do you think I am going after this?’ We went over there. I wasn’t there to start any problems. I wanted to let him know, just like in the division, that I was here. You aren’t going to come in my area for an appearance and not get a welcome. I never even said anything to him. He blew his lid when I was talking to one of his managers. That’s where all of the cameras came into it. Everybody made it seem like I went to crash his party. No, I just stood there and stared at him. He got super uncomfortable. You could tell. He started sending messages over. He would autograph a fan’s glove and then write a message on the middle finger and tell them to show it to me. He would write a message on the back of a poster and tell the fan to show me. I am in his head and that’s why he keeps picking fights with everyone but me. Even at the event, I had the video on my phone, he said if I want a fight I got it. Now it’s a different story. Shut your ass up.
When we spoke, years ago, you talked so clearly of being a champ and being on this particular path. You are on the doorstep of all of this coming true. How great does it feel that all of that is coming to fruition?
Since I got out of college I have had a plan with what I wanted to do with my life. Anybody that knows me says I am right on path with what I have always been saying. I wanted to get married and start my family right before I turned 30 and have my first child around 30. Well, I had my first child this year, the year I turned 30. I said that I wanted to save all of my fight checks and save it so when I leave I have my exit plan ready to go. The checks have been saved and the exit plan is in place. Everything I said I was going to do at 21 years old, now at 30, I can look back and say I have no regrets because I did exactly what I said I was going to do. I tell kids all the time that it is hard to distract someone that has their mind set on one thing and one thing only. My mind is set. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. There are no distractions. I knew what the plan was. I was to be here and be the best. So we are coming for that belt.