Corey Anderson scoffs at people who have him below Glover Teixeira: ‘I beat the UFC champ. Handily. On two-week notice’

Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA

Corey Anderson is set to challenge for mantle of the best light heavyweight in Bellator on Friday when he faces champion Vadim Nemkov in the co-main event of Bellator 277.

But he may already have a case for being the best light heavyweight in the world.

Anderson enters the bout having won seven of his last eight fights over the past five years, a run which includes a dominant short-notice victory in 2018 over the man who’d eventually come to win UFC gold: Current UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira. Anderson also owns a 1-1 series split with Jan Blachowicz, the ex-champ who Teixeira beat to capture the UFC belt. So when Anderson hears critics attack the notion that the top 205-pound fighter in the world could belong under the Bellator umbrella, he can’t help but laugh.

“You can say what you want to say — I beat the UFC champ. Handily. On two-week notice,” Anderson said at Bellator 277’s press conference. “There wasn’t one scorecard that went his way. So what are you saying? Yeah, I got knocked out [by Blachowicz in 2020] — people get knocked out. ‘You got caught by Jan.’ But you go back and watch that [first] fight I did against him [in 2015], my fifth or sixth fight ever — boy, I milked him like a cow. It was the easiest fight I’ve had. I’m just being honest. I was just taking him down left and right.

“Then I went out there with a cocky mindset in the last fight [against Blachowicz], like I said, I was playing games, I wasn’t thinking about the business anymore. Like, ‘Oh, I beat the dude before, I’m going to go out here and show how [good of a striker I am].’ And it cost me. But if I go out there serious and do what I do, I’m untouchable.”

Anderson (16-5) has certainly been on a tear since leaving the UFC in 2020. He’s a perfect 3-0 in Bellator with a trio of TKO finishes. In his most recent outing, Anderson smashed through former Bellator two-division champion — and current heavyweight champion — Ryan Bader with a 51-second knockout in Bader’s hometown of Phoenix to advance into the finals of Bellator’s $1 million light heavyweight grand prix against Nemkov.

Nearly the entirety of Anderson’s MMA career before his Bellator run was spent in the UFC — he inked his first UFC deal as a 3-0 prospect in just his second year as a professional — so Anderson has better sense than most fighters about the difference between competing in the two promotions. So when asked for his thoughts on what the biggest differences between his experiences have been, the 32-year-old veteran didn’t mince words.

“There really is none,” Anderson said. “The difference is the check size. [The critics] bothered me up until the first fight I had in Bellator — I was like, ‘You know what? I don’t care what they’re talking about.’ People say, ‘I’m laughing to bank.’ I know this. Let them talk. I’m laughing with them, but guess what? I’m going to the bank with a lot more money than I ever had in the UFC. So it’s like, it’s top competition everywhere. The best fighter might not even be signed yet. Who knows? But for me the only difference is the check.”

Despite his success, Anderson still has his work cut out for him against Nemkov.

The reigning Bellator light heavyweight champion has been unstoppable since joining the promotion, racking up a flawless 7-0 record while defeating former champions Bader, Phil Davis (x2), Rafael Carvalho, and Liam McGeary. Along the way, Nemkov has shown himself to be a dangerous foe everywhere, using both his striking and his grappling effectively to push himself to the top of the class in Bellator’s 205-pound division.

Anderson acknowledged ahead of Bellator 277 that Nemkov likely has the edge on him when it comes to striking, but he also knows there’s more to the matchup than just that.

“I 100-percent agree, I give him the nod in the standup too. My striking is good, his striking is good, but he has kicks … and we all know I’m not a kicker,” Anderson said. “I’m a wrestler. I was built to go forward. I’m built to go through you. I’m not built to try to kick around and do anything fancy. I’m not throwing spins, I’m not throwing head kicks.

“But he can. He can throw them quick. And like you said, you don’t see them. You don’t see the kicks, but you have to see the tells. That’s the thing about being a great MMA fighter. When you study his film and you study everything about him, you start realizing, when he’s going to throw the kick, there’s a tell. He shows what he’s doing. So you’ve just got to keep your eyes open. That’s the thing, like I said, the punch you get knocked out with is the one you don’t see.

“As long as I keep my eyes open and keep my focus on him and do my thing,” Anderson continued, “I should see those kicks coming.”

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