The MMA veteran and light heavyweight contender talks punching, hunting, and legacy ahead of his championship rematch vs. Vadim Nemkov at Bellator 288.
Corey Anderson can eat a steak faster than you.
In fact, Corey Anderson can eat a steak faster than you can:
- Tie your shoes
- Subscribe to his YouTube hunting show, “Outdoors with Overtime”
- Skin the deer he shot for you as a gift because you are now best friends
Whether it’s a New York strip, dry-aged filet, or an immaculate bone-in ribeye that would make Pat La Frieda himself shed a single shimmering, perfectly marbled tear, the Bellator light heavyweight title contender and all-around outdoorsman is as world-class in the mixed carnivorous arts as he as at facepunching and wrestling inside a cage for money.
As he does so reliably, Anderson was gorgeously blunt about it. As he told me on a late August afternoon in a Lower Manhattan steakhouse:
“I’m a big-ass man. Tryna eat, not tryna be cute.”
With all this in mind, perhaps you wouldn’t be surprised that the self-described country boy was a veteran MMA contender at the doorstep of his first world championship and a $1 million payday in the finale of Bellator’s Light Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament.
On Nov. 18 at Bellator 288 in Chicago, he’s set for a rematch with incumbent champ Vadim Nemkov. Their first bout unfortunately ended in controversy — at Bellator 277 in April, an inadvertent Anderson headbutt late in the third round compelled the referee to stop the fight after an untenable cut opened over the champ’s eye. According to the official rules, the bout had to be ruled a No Contest.
If just a few more seconds had elapsed and Nemkov was unable to continue after three rounds of five had been completed, Anderson could have been awarded the world title.
Such are the stakes for a man who knows more than a little about steaks.
The following is Boardroom’s conversation with Corey Anderson, edited for length and clarity.
SAM DUNN: You were five seconds away from what would have been a well-deserved dub against Nemkov. Do you still feel emotional when you think about how that went? How much of it factors into your day-to-day approach to the rematch?
COREY ANDERSON: The only thing I take into consideration is the way the fight was going for a decision, what it is now, and then what we can do about that took me a couple weeks to get to that point.
Doing media after the fight, it started to really get to me. I had to repeat the same story over and over for a week straight. So I got to the point [where] my manager’s like, “cancel all media.” I’m going off the grid. I had to go just get by myself in the woods and clear my head.
But I’m fine with the decision at the same time. It’s like, yeah, would you truly be happy if you were the champion off that circumstance? Yeah, you’d be happy you got the belt, [but] the same time, people would never really say, “oh, Corey actually won.”
There’s always gonna be somebody in the comments or somebody in the media saying, “Well, if you think about it, anything could happen in the last two rounds. Nemkov could’ve came back and did a spinning heel kick and landed and it could have been over.” This way, I can actually say we go out there and we get it done the way we planned to do it the first time. We’re gonna get done clean.
SD: You now have this perfect opportunity to put all that to rest. So, if and when you get that belt and become world champion, what does it mean for your career?
CA: That’s gonna bring me back to the ultimate goal. You don’t get into this sport just to be a number — you’re there to say, at the end, I’m the best.
Even when [fighters] are amateurs and they’re young kids, [they say] ‘I’m the best in the world. I’m gonna show it in this fight.’ Nah, I’m actually the best in the world. I’m gonna show it this fight, and then when it’s over, no questions about it. I got the belt. I am the best. When you address me, you call me the champ. Just that’s it. That’s the plateau of what we’re fighting for.
SD: The light heavyweight division is in such an interesting spot. The UFC is in transition with Jon Jones moving up to heavyweight. Yoel Romero, who’s still one of the scariest dudes on earth, is fighting at 205 in Bellator. How do you assess how the division has evolved?
CA: A couple years ago when it was just Jon Jones at the top, it was kind of stagnant. “You got all these guys in the division, but nobody’s gonna beat Jon Jones.” But now, I feel like the fight game as a whole has evolved so much that everybody’s learning so much. Those Dagestanis came over — I feel that’s where it all changed, Dagestanis started coming to the US and training at different gyms.
People are learning, picking up new techniques and different stuff about SAMBO and you can see the game just changing, everybody trying to do something crazy that we didn’t see [before] ’cause it was usually overseas and now you got all different organizations getting televised and people doing different stuff in those and they pick it up, like Conor McGregor doing the shoulder strike — all of a sudden, you see everybody throwing that shoulder. My camp, we learned it from the Russians and them coming over and doing it, so now, it’s more competition in 205 worldwide instead of everybody chasing one guy. It’s all pretty good.
SD: Let’s picture you at the top of the Bellator mountain. You’re the champ. At that point, it becomes about legacy and staking a claim as one of the best ever. What are the next steps you take to secure that kind of status?
CA: I mean, legacy is something a lot of people chase, but it ain’t something I’m chasing. I’m chasing wealth for my family. You know what I mean?
I know how good I am and I’ve come to the terms [that] no matter how good I show I am, I don’t feel I’ll ever get the proper praise, the proper assessment of how good I was from the fans and the media. So now, I’m fighting, I know how good I am, I know what I can do, I know what I’m capable of to the point [that] now it’s literally a career. It’s not the fight game, but the fight business.
Every move I make now is about taking care of my family. Anybody that works nine to five, you working nine to five to support your daily habits and your family. That’s what this is now. I’m super good at it; not probably, I am the best in my weight class at it. So I’m gonna go out there and just use what I’m good at to keep making sure my family is healthy, happy, and taken care of.
SD: I need to ask you about Bellator’s Grand Prix tournament setup — you win, you get a million dollars. You’ve had plenty of big-money bouts in your career, but that’s life-changing. Is there a big purchase you have in mind if you win, or is it just about spoiling your family?
CA: I’m a money guy, I’m about making sure everybody’s taken care of. We don’t have to worry about anything. There is gonna be no certain big purchase; there’s gonna be investing the money to where that money makes money.
SD: Who is Corey Anderson the investor?
CA: Buying land. I’m a hunter. I’m a country boy. They don’t make land no more. They’re not making any more, so my thing is always trying to find the best deal on a piece of land, a parcel of land, a big crop field. I can buy a ranch or a farm, a big, empty lot, a big wood lot somewhere. If it’s in an area that’s growing where someday somebody want might want build something here, if I own that, they gotta pay me for it.
Something I posted the other day was a tractor, an old, used tractor I bought, was just something that was part of the goal for me bacause I grew up in the country. [Now] I have my own tractor, I got a zero-turn mower, and stuff my kids can enjoy, so the money is more [about] not making sure that my kids are gonna be set to where they got money sitting away, but that the money is [invested in] things where when I die and leave it in my kids’ name, if somebody wanted it or they want to sell it, the asset is worth something.
SD: Was investing in land based on specific advice that you got from someone? Where did that come from?
CA: Well, my father always told us, invest in real estate because it’s like a cash cow; kind of hard to go wrong.
I got farm buddies like Trent Cole, former NFL player, who owns a bunch of farms, and when we’re hunting, we always talk about, “my goal is to buy as much land as I can, and if there’s somebody who wants it, they gotta get to me for it.” They’re not making no more.
You can’t make land. They’re building houses, they’re building cell phone towers, but guess what? They’re all going on land. If you own it, eventually they’ll run out of places to build and they’re gonna come ask you for it. I just put it together.
SD: So, how do you put it together against Vadim Nemkov for the 205-pound title at Bellator 288 on Nov. 18?
CA: Master what I do great from my first fight in Bellator all the way to our last fight and just keep doing the same thing. The game plan ain’t never changed.
[At this moment, a well-dressed server approaches to take our lunch order. Anderson orders his 16 oz. New York strip cooked medium; I was rare all the way, baby.]
Yeah, keep doing what you’re doing each time and get better at what you’re good at. The example I always use is Cael Sanderson. I’m a wrestler. Anyone who knows Sanderson — he didn’t have a million moves, but what was the one thing you see him hit everyone with? The ankle. You know it was coming, he just could set it up so well. You disguise it. Make it look like you’re going for something else.
SD: Is Nemkov-Anderson 2 going the distance, or are you getting the stop?
CA: Fight is gonna go where I’m gonna be victorious. If he wants to slow it down or [if] he can make his pace last a lot longer, we can go to decision. I’m fine with it. But lately, I’ve been on a tear with finishes just because they’re trying to keep up with my pace; they gas out, they just can’t keep up anymore. So if you can stay in there with a game plan, more power to you, congratulations. The plan is still to win, but I’m gonna win dominant, in a dominant fashion.
Vadim Nemkov vs. Corey Anderson 2 goes down Friday night for the Bellator light heavyweight world championship as the main event of Bellator 288 in Chicago, Illinois. The main card begins at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.
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