Throughout a pre-UFC Rochester interview with featherweight contender Megan Anderson, the distinct sounds of snarling, growling dogs can be detected in the background. Odin and Ragnar, Anderson’s young Rottweilers, are having their own version of a morning workout.
“When they play, it’s super loud, and it sounds like they’re fighting, but they’re not,” Anderson assures me.
It will be a different story for their owner come Saturday night. Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY will most assuredly be loud, and it will sound like fighting because it will be fighting as Anderson throws hands in her third UFC tilt.
Every bout is another chapter for a fighter, and UFC Rochester promises to be one that connects a lot of plot points in Anderson’s story.
Standing across the Octagon will be Felicia Spencer. Both fighters are alumni of Invicta FC, and uniquely, both entered the UFC holding Invicta titles.
“It is pretty cool having two former Invicta featherweight champions fighting each other in the UFC,” Anderson agrees. “She’s got some good skills. She’s tough. She’s durable. She’s hungry. I was in her position two fights ago, coming into the UFC. So I kind of know where she’s at. She wants to implement her game. She wants to show everyone what she’s capable of and introduce herself to the UFC fans. She’s got some decent skills she brings to the table that we’re excited to come up against.”
The connections don’t end there. Anderson, who still attends and even occasionally does correspondence for Invicta events, points to another correlation happening Saturday.
But beyond the ties to Invicta FC, there are connections on the UFC Rochester card that hit a lot closer to home for Anderson. Two of her teammates from Kansas City’s Glory MMA, Zak Cummings and Grant Dawson, will also be making the walk to the Octagon.
“I’m obviously emotionally invested in my fight, but I’m also invested in theirs,” she explains. “It’s going to be an emotional night; handling everyone being there, watching their fights, being ready for my fight, having [coach] James Krause go out with the other fighters and then run back to be with me…it’s going to be emotionally challenging navigating that. But we’re ready.”
It would be understating things to suggest the Glory team all want to put on dominant performances in New York, particularly Anderson, who is still eager to show UFC audiences what she’s made of.
After being decisioned in her UFC debut against Holly Holm, Anderson’s first UFC win against Cat Zingano wasn’t the celebratory affair it should have been. When an Anderson kick grazed off her eyelid, Zingano found herself unable to continue, giving Anderson the TKO victory after a mere 61 seconds.
“It was just a weird set of circumstances that that specific thing happened. Anyone in this game knows you can’t typically try to put your toe in someone’s eye. It’s a one-in-a-billion kind of circumstance.”
That much is certainly true. It was among the rarest of stoppages, and one audiences are not likely to ever see again. But that didn’t stop a baffling onslaught of naysayers and armchair critics from deriding her completely legal win, despite her repeated offers to Zingano for a rematch.
“Yeah, it was a win, but the way the fans and the media went about it, they kind of took it away from me a little bit. I feel like I wasn’t able to have that clear-cut ‘Yes! I won!’ in the cage.”
Still, the greatest irritation from that outing wasn’t the unwarranted, uninformed critiques, but rather the fact that Anderson wasn’t given the chance to fully exhibit the arsenal of skills she had been working on in camp.
“That is the most frustrating part because I get a lot of criticism as a fighter - I feel unnecessarily more than a lot of other fighters. But I really wanted to showcase a lot of what we’d been working on and what I’m capable of, and I wasn’t really able to do that.”
She’ll get that chance on Saturday, and her desire to put on a show is palpable. For some fighters, such a short fight wouldn’t provide an adequate blueprint for what needed to be worked on for the next go-round. But for Anderson, this fight camp has been less about the holes in her game, and more about her game as a whole.
“I’m trying to improve, regardless of what happens. I’ve only been doing this for six years, so I still have a lot to learn; a lot to improve on. We just doubled down and kept going, trying to level-up my game everywhere” she says of her most recent training camp.
“There are opponents that you game plan for, but we really focused on my game and becoming a better martial artist,” a relaxed-sounding Anderson says.
“The results will speak for themselves. We’re really planning to make it definitive this time around.”
Steve Latrell is a writer and producer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheUFSteve