Even though Eryk Anders is likely in his physical prime as a prizefighter, that doesn’t mean the 33-year-old hasn’t thought about what life could look like after he hangs up the gloves.
“Hopefully in ten years I'm doing nothing but checking the mailbox,” he laughs. “I just want to be fat, dumb and happy, invest my money that I made and sit back on the couch and tell the kids what I used to do and how I used to be, things like that.”
Did he just say fat, dumb and happy?
“That's the goal. That's the mission.”
The topic of life after fighting came up when discussing the sacrifices Anders and his peers in the business have to make in order to excel at the highest level of the sport. This time around, that meant Anders had to leave his wife and kids in Alabama to go train with Eddie Cha, Santino Defranco and the Fight Ready crew in Arizona in preparation for his Saturday bout against Darren Stewart.
“We just bought a house, I've only spent a night in there, and was on a plane the next day to come out here,” he said. “I've seen my kids once and won't see them again until after the fight. I sacrificed a lot, so anything less than a win is unacceptable.”
That’s the price Anders is willing to pay, and thankfully, his family knows it and is along for the ride. But why go through all this?
“I'm a competitor and I don't think I'm truly happy unless I'm competing or getting ready to compete,” he said. “This is what I love, this is what I enjoy, and I only have a limited number of years that I can do it. The wife and kids, they understand what it is I'm trying to do and where I'm trying to go.”
Where Anders is trying to go is the top of the UFC’s middleweight division, and that road has been rocky at times, leading “Ya Boi” to make that move to train out west.
“I'm leveling up,” he said. “Back home I had a lack of training partners and Eddie has a different style, so I'm getting a different look and a different feel. When it comes to fight time, I'll still be me, but with a few more tools in the belt, I'm ready to go in there and do damage.”
The excitement is evident in the voice of the normally low-key Anders, who, after reaching the pinnacle of college football with the University of Alabama in 2009, has found a path to doing the same thing in a sport where he can never stop learning and growing.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “Especially when it concerns range and distance, which I think is one of Eddie's best coaching attributes. I’m realizing that I don't have to be standing on top of somebody to hit him; I can cover some ground and cover some distance. And I honestly think that lack of distance management was the reason I lost the Khalil Rountree and Thiago Santos fights; I was too close or too far, when there's a whole middle ground there. And also, I've got awesome training partners down here. Back home, it's kind of easy when I get people up against the cage to take them down and things like that. So when I get in a fight and it's not so easy, it's not that it's foreign, it's just different. So I've been really working my ass off and working with some high quality, UFC-caliber fighters out here and when I go into a fight, fighting a UFC-caliber fighter, I've seen the speed, felt the power and managed the strength.”
All that’s left then is for him to fight his fight, and against Stewart, he will have a willing dance partner for what should be one of the best bouts on Saturday’s card. Not that Anders has gone too deep in analyzing the matchup. Remember, he’ll fight anybody.
“I really don't turn down fights,” he said. “If everything lines up, then that's what we do. So who I fight really doesn't matter to me, but I do like this fight because I think him and I are in similar circumstances. I think we're both around .500 in the UFC, we both like to stand and bang and crack, so I would imagine that that's how this fight's gonna play out.”
And in ten years? How does he keep that competitive blood flowing when not checking the mailbox and getting fat?
“I really don't know,” he said. “I'm sure I'll find something. Maybe I’ll get into the managing side of MMA. I truly do love the sport and I don't really see myself stepping away from it completely. But it will be an option - I'll have choices.”
No golf, then?
“I'm definitely not a golfer,” he laughs. “But I think I'll always do jiu-jitsu. You can do that forever, you can train as easy or as hard as you want, and it doesn't really put miles on the body like that. But maybe just two or three times a week. It'll be a hobby instead of a job or a profession.”