As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, Corey Anderson can also be the nervous sort when everything is going the way he wants it to in the closing stages of a training camp.
“If you're not nervous, then you don't love the sport the way you should,” he said, pointing out that in every training camp he’s had since joining the UFC roster after winning season 19 of The Ultimate Fighter, his thoughts about three weeks out from the fight are always the same.
“I'm about to lose.”
“I just can't get it.”
“What in the world is going on?”
Anderson laughs, because once T-minus two weeks to fight night arrives, it all seems to magically come together.
“It definitely feels like I'm constantly peaking at the right time before every fight,” he said. “I have good camps no matter what, but at times, I'm like 'man, I'm messing this up, I'm messing that up, I can't get it right.' And then the week before (fight week), everything is just clicking and I'm progressing even better than I did for the last fight. My combos, my hands, my footwork, my takedowns, my jiu-jitsu - everything is going even better than the week before. Then you get to the fight and execute even better than you did in the last week of training. You're constantly growing, and it's a great feeling to know you're doing everything right.”
So no worries that one time it just won’t click?
“It's been like this every camp so far. I don't even beat myself up over it. I just keep on focusing and it's going to click at the right time. And sure enough, everything is clicking.”
This Saturday, Anderson continues his road through the light heavyweight ranks when he faces veteran Tom Lawlor in a UFC 196 main card bout in Las Vegas. It’s the perfect time for the 26-year-old to get another bout in the spotlight like this, as he’s won four of his five UFC bouts, with two in a row coming over Jan Blachowicz and Fabio Maldonado. And while it’s easy to chalk up his success to raw talent, the more accurate assessment is that Anderson is one of those guys you have to lock out of the gym every night.
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Guilty as charged, said the Illinois native.
“I'm a competitive person and I always love to compete in anything I do,” he said. “I'm that type of guy. I just want to know that I can outwork and do it better than somebody else. It's not that I'm better than anybody; I just pride myself on saying that not too many people can say they train as hard as me. And that's an enjoyable thing in my life. A lot of people like traveling and partying and having fun. I like to grind. That's what fuels me. This is my high. This is all I know.”
And it’s why that raw talent has been honed into a finely tuned fighting machine in the space of just a handful of fights. Anderson admits that all the intricacies of jiu-jitsu are still coming to him, but in the meantime, he’s got a defense for anything a groundfighting wizard can throw at him.
“I definitely feel like I'm a well-rounded fighter now,” he said. “My jiu-jitsu game came a long way, I'm catching brown belts and sometimes even a black belt in situations. My wrestling's still good, my boxing's great, my kicks have come a long way. But with jiu-jitsu, people have so much more experience. I've only been using jiu-jitsu in situations since I moved to New Jersey right before the finale, so in my mind, it's intimidating going into a fight knowing a guy's good at jiu-jitsu. He might know something a little bit more than me and can catch me. But my mindset is if I just go out there, do what I do, and go a hundred percent and just don't stop, it's going to be hard for him to catch me in anything. If I'm confident in throwing punches and dropping elbows on his face, it's going to be hard for him to keep an eye on me to catch an arm or go for a kneebar or ankle lock. Everything I do, if I just do it a hundred percent, it's going to be hard for him to catch me.”
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It’s also going to be hard for the rest of the division to catch Anderson in the coming years if he keeps progressing the way he has. And when it’s all over, this is one fighter who expects to have no regrets.
“I want to get my belt, get my money, have my health, and enjoy the rest of my life.”