Eryk Anders' impressive rookie season in UFC continues with main event assignment

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(Getty Photographs)

Eryk Anders is six months into an incredible rookie season in the UFC.

Debuting on brief discover in July, the middleweight prospect put veteran Rafael Natal to sleep lower than three minutes into his first look in the Octagon, pushing his profitable streak to 9 and sending Natal into retirement in the method. 5 months later, he ran his unbeaten streak to 10 with a unanimous determination victory over Markus Perez in Fresno, edging out the underrated neophyte who adopted him to the highest of the middleweight ranks underneath the Legacy Preventing Alliance banner.

This weekend, the 30-yr-previous upstart who helped lead Alabama to a nationwide title in 2009 takes a substantial step up in competitors as he squares off with former mild heavyweight champion and longtime middleweight contender Lyoto Machida in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Struggle Night time card in Belem, Brazil.

On the floor, it might appear to be the group throwing an undefeated rising expertise into the deep finish of the pool, however in actuality, Anders requested for this particular assignment and has each intention of taking advantage of it.

“I’m a fan of the hostile surroundings,” stated Anders, talking with Sporting Information late final week. “I do know that he’s from there and the remainder of the middleweight division is booked, so I noticed the UFC was going there and figured they’d need to get him on the cardboard. With everybody else being booked, I figured why not me?”

Whereas Saturday’s contest marks Anders’ first “work journey” to the South American MMA hotbed, he’s been to Brazil a handful of occasions in the previous, together with shortly after defeating Perez, as his spouse is Brazilian.

“I need to embrace being the dangerous man,” stated Anders, who gained’t use his spouse’s nationality as to attempt to curry favor with the raucous Brazilian crowd. “The individuals who have to know know that she’s Brazilian and the individuals who have achieved their homework about me know that my spouse is Brazilian, however I don’t assume that it’s going to make that a lot of a distinction seeing as that is his hometown.

“I’m positive the followers can be loud and cheering for him and yelling, ‘Uh vai morrer’ and I’m actually wanting ahead to them doing it.”

It has been a whirlwind begin to his UFC tenure for Anders and a speedy development up the ranks as an entire for the previous linebacker, who made his skilled debut in August 2015. Lower than three years later, he’s obtained a pair of wins on the most important stage in the game beneath his belt and his first main event assignment is on faucet.

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Some may be overwhelmed by such a fast transfer up the skilled ladder or wrestle with the challenges of on the spot success, however Anders is happy with how shortly issues have progressed for him. He credit the preparation habits and coaching regiment that helped make him a starter for the Crimson Tide with serving to him attain the brink of title rivalry after simply 10 professional fights.

“It’s shifting actually shortly, however on the similar time, we’re shifting in the course that I need to transfer in,” stated Anders, who logged 22 newbie fights earlier than venturing into the skilled ranks. “I welcome the tempo and I definitely do recognize the chance as properly.

“I really feel like lots of people need to rush it and don’t know what they don’t know, however me, I’ve been taught to go away no stone unturned. Whether or not it’s movie research, the load room, the cardio, the precise coaching periods, when to coach, how onerous to coach, the precise depth of the exercise; every thing is regimented for me.

“Each Monday is identical,” he added. “Each Tuesday is identical and I don’t take days off. I comply with and I belief the method and as you’ll be able to see, it has labored for me so far.”

In the event that they proceed working via this weekend, Anders might set up himself as a brand new identify to observe in the unsettled and all the time shifting middleweight division.

Present champ Robert Whittaker is on the mend after dealing with a staph an infection, leaving Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero to battle for interim gold subsequent weekend in Perth, Australia at UFC 221. Former champ Michael Bisping isn’t positive if he’ll struggle once more and Georges St-Pierre gave up the belt a month after he beat “The Rely” and doubtless gained’t return to the division if he opts to battle once more.

Past that, every little thing is fairly broad open and whereas Machida is presently driving a 3-battle dropping streak and dropped his first struggle again after a two-yr hiatus to Derek Brunson, “The Dragon” continues to be harmful and probably the most adorned and completed fighter Anders has confronted thus far.

None of these issues give Anders any pause heading into Saturday’s main event. He expects to earn one other victory and after that, he needs to proceed protecting lively and ideally shut out the yr as a championship contender.

“I feel I’m going to go on the market and get a victory,” he provided. “I feel I’m going to get a end — I feel I’m going to knock Lyoto Machida out — and we’ll see what occurs from there.

“I’d wish to battle 4-to-six occasions this yr. If every thing goes based on plan, I’m wholesome and may do this, I might completely love to try this and I feel you’ll see me in the Prime 10, if not title rivalry, by the top of 2018.

“I don’t wish to take breaks,” he added. “I reside in the fitness center. I’m continuously coaching and evolving in my recreation, so that you’re by no means going to see the identical Eryk Anders twice in the cage. I’m wanting ahead to this chance, going on the market and getting a win and seeing who I can get subsequent.”