In the 2010 BCS National Championship, the cast of characters was deep. From players like Mark Ingram, Colt McCoy, Trent Richardson and Jordan Shipley, to coaches Nick Saban and Mack Brown, it was a veritable all-star lineup as Alabama and Texas faced off for the coveted NCAA Division I college football national title.
With only six minutes left in the game, Texas had built up a ton of momentum and had closed a once 18-point deficit to just three points. With McCoy injured and out of the game, freshman backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert dropped back, deep in his own territory, and got sacked by Alabama linebacker Eryk Anders. The sack caused a fumble, which ultimately led to a swing in momentum back to the Crimson Tide, who went on to seal a 37-21 victory and provide Saban with his second national title.
While he didn’t exactly earn MVP honors for that tide-changing sack, Anders was the hero of the game, after which he earned his degree in health studies and tried his hand at the pro level. His pro career was short-lived, though, and he entered the world of the working stiff.
“To be honest, after I got done playing football, I tried the whole nine-to-five thing,” Anders told Combat Press. “It’s not for me. I’m not cut out to sit still — you know, be stationary and live a sedentary lifestyle. I walked into a gym one day, and said, ‘Hey, I want to fight.’ I thought I could fight. I fought a lot when I was growing up, and I wanted to train and fight a little bit. I had a little bit of a wrestling background, and they said, ‘Alright, go spar with that guy.’ That guy happened to be [UFC veteran] Walt Harris. I got handled pretty well, but I fell in love with the sport from that point forward.”
Anders grew up in a very large, very tight family. His mother was in the Air Force, so they moved around a lot, and being the fifth of six kids, there was always an air of competition in the Anders home. He now has a family of his own with a wife and two boys, ages eight and six. With a college degree and a successful football career, how does a guy up and decide to be a professional fighter?
“What else is there to do?” Anders said. “I love it. I love training, I love going out there and competing, and I love that it’s one-on-one. It’s a team sport inside the gym, but when you compete, it’s one-on-one, so I don’t have to worry about anybody fumbling the football, throwing an interception, or missing a tackle. Wins and losses are 100 percent solely based on my performance.”
Anders began training at age 25. Now, at 30, he is undefeated as a pro with a 7-0 record. He has finished all but one of his opponents by knockout. After going six fights against guys with very little experience, he stepped into the cage for his last fight in March at the sixth installation of Legacy Fighting Alliance and finished 30-fight veteran Jon Kirk in a minute and a half. Anders is not at all surprised that he remains undefeated.
“I’m definitely the hardest-working guy in the room, in the business, and definitely in the middleweight division,” Anders said. “That’s just the way I’m programmed. I try to outwork everybody from the time I’m preparing for a fight to the time I’m in the cage and they say go. I’m always honing my game. If somebody has a flaw in their game — maybe conditioning is one of those flaws — I try to capitalize on it.”
Going into MMA five years ago, Anders was young and new to the sport, but he was obviously no stranger to competition. He didn’t really have an idea what would come next, but he wanted to give it his all.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t have any expectations,” Anders stated. “My only expectation was to go out there and win. Did I think five out of the seven fights would come in the first round by TKO with several of those in under 45 seconds? No. But, anytime you can go in there and get a win that quickly while taking minimal damage, that’s definitely the way you want to go. I’m very pleased with my performance up to this point. I’ve certainly gotten better since my last fight, and I’m ready to put on a show this week.”
On Friday, Anders will step back into the LFA cage for the biggest fight of his career. In the headlining spot at LFA 14 at the Arena Theater in Houston, Anders will face Brendan Allen for the vacant LFA middleweight title.
Allen, a former IMMAF champion, picked up the Valor Fights middleweight strap in December, and he, too, beat Kirk on the LFA stage earlier this year. A very well-rounded fighter, the Louisiana native poses Anders with his biggest challenge yet.
“I know he’ll be game, he’ll come forward, and he’ll definitely be the best opponent I’ve fought so far,” Anders admitted. “He probably has a better ground game than he does with the striking, but I’m confident that I’m better than him everywhere.”
Anders led an exciting college football career and was able to bask in the glory of a national championship. Now, he’s pursuing his passion in his adult career, and, on Friday night, he will have the chance to add one more title to his repertoire while competing in front of a national audience on AXS TV.
“I’m an entertaining fighter,” said Anders. “I come to finish fights. Your seat’s not going to get cold, and your beer’s not going to get warm. I tend to finish fights pretty quickly.”