At one point not too long ago, Megan Anderson was at the top of the MMA world. She had become the interim Invicta FC featherweight champion after outlasting Charmaine Tweet in a bloody brawl. She had the respect and admiration of her peers, the MMA media, and a large, growing fan base on social media. Life was relatively simple. Her day-to-day routine involved going to the gym and preparing for the next fight. No distractions
Then, life decided it didn’t want to be so simple. It threw a wrench into Anderson’s plans. Shortly after becoming champion, Anderson’s personal life went into upheaval, and her fight career was abruptly paused. No more fights. No more stepping into the cage. This would be the case for Anderson for the next year. She became a spectator. That’s what tore at her the most.
“It’s been extremely difficult,” Anderson told Combat Press. “A roller coaster of emotions, if you will.”
Anderson has been no stranger to adversity in her fight career. She lost her pro debut. Then, she lost her stateside debut for Invicta FC. However, that type of adversity could be overcome by simply stepping into the cage and winning a fight. The adversity that found Anderson outside of the cage couldn’t be tackled so easily. Anderson became a cruel spectator in a waiting game. While doing so, she saw so many around her distance themselves from her or even attack her. Her social media that was largely positive and had a bounty of support? Gone. MMA media that wanted interviews on a weekly basis? Gone. Anderson found out quickly, and harshly, what happens when you’re no longer at the top.
“Everyone essentially turned on me, MMA media included,” said Anderson. “But that’s fine. People can think what they want. At the end of the day, their opinions don’t matter.”
It’s easy to say opinions don’t matter. It took awhile for Anderson to adjust, though. You could say it’s still a battle. Her life seems to be as scrutinized as any fighter. Just take a look at her social media and see the comments on every update she posts.
“It was definitely very hard, and it took me awhile to get used to,” she admitted. “Mainly, a lot of the comments — I try not to look at the comments people write — but a lot got through that were negative, saying you’re a waste of space, you’re pathetic, are you retired, all this kind of stuff.
“A lot of it was just desensitizing and stuff to it, and learning not to get so worked up about someone saying something. Most of the ones that annoy me at the moment are so stupid — like, people, do you have no common sense? But there’s always going to be a comment that slips through, and you could be having a shitty day and you see it and you’re like, “I hate you” [laughs]. Just learning to not respond, not get worked up about it [and] keep going about your day. I could easily go look at their profile, stoop to their level and make them feel bad about themselves, but I don’t wanna stoop to their level.”
Anderson had several instances where she could have stooped to that level, and not always with fans. Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, the current UFC women’s featherweight champion, repeatedly attacked Anderson through social media, making up lies about what was going on with Anderson and why she wasn’t competing.
“I have no control over that; I only have control over me,” said Anderson. “If it didn’t come from me personally, then it’s all speculation. It’s all bullshit. People have speculated a lot of different things. I didn’t want to engage in a stupid Twitter thing with, let’s be honest, we all know Ray [Elbe] runs her Twitter account. I like Cris — she’s nice and a great champion — but I guess the way she’s portrayed on social media isn’t the best.”
Through the trying times, Anderson kept a support system, one that didn’t turn their back on her before and wouldn’t start now. Her parents had always been a constant in her life. You could find them at her Invicta fights, making the trek all the way from Australia.
“I guess it was really just having someone to speak to,” Anderson said. “When things would get really tough, they would say to me, ‘If you want to come home, come home. We still love you.’ But it never crossed my mind. I was meant to do this, and champions are made through their ability to handle and get through tough times and pain. I just got through that and dealt with it every day, and now we’re on the other side and I just want to show everyone an example of what a champion is.”
Anderson is heavily intent on representing the sport the right way as a champion. Right now, we’re in a weird cycle of fighters doing outlandish things for attention and for the big fights.
“I learn from the Colby Covingtons of the world [and] the [Conor] McGregors,” said Anderson. “I see what people do good and what people do bad. I want to be a champion that doesn’t try to throw people under the bus — or throw a dolly at a bus [laughs]. Unfortunately, there are no consequences to the words [Covington] says, and like Conor, there are no consequences for the actions he does.
“I watched Michelle Waterson and her take on it, and she put it really well. It is very worrying that there are no consequences and people feel they have to do this to get attention. MMA is essentially martial arts, and the basis of martial arts is respect and discipline. Like Colby Covington going into Mike Perry’s girlfriend, or ex-girlfriend, that’s just not called for. Unfortunately, at this point in time, it just goes back to there are no consequences for those type of actions. People feel they have to do that now to get attention and to get noticed and to get followers on Twitter and to get the big fights, which is sad.”
The opportunity to take the first step back to becoming a champion and adding some much-needed respect and discipline will come shortly. On June 9, UFC 225 goes down. For the first time since January 2017, Anderson will engage in a real fight with a game opponent and former champion. That opponent is Holly Holm.
“I got the news at like 5:20 pm on a Tuesday, and James [Krause, Anderson’s head coach] was there,” recalled Anderson. “I told James. I was literally just about to start class, and I was, like, so excited I was shaking. It was making me feel nauseous, and I also wanted to cry. Finally, I have a fight. I got into training, and I told my training partners I am so sorry for the emotional roller coaster that’s going to happen in the next hour and a half.
“[The UFC] told me they were going to work on finding me somebody. They threw out some names — maybe it’s gonna be Cris, maybe this person, this person. We weren’t expecting Holly at all, so it came out of left field. But I’m really excited, because I really respect Holly. She’s a high-caliber athlete.”
In many ways, this will become Anderson’s coming-out party. It’s her long-awaited UFC debut, and it will come with enormous pressure. However, for the first time in a long time, Anderson will be free to do what she loves in the cage.
“I’ve always performed under pressure,” said Anderson. “I’m excited. I love this match. I’m excited to show the mainstream who I am, what I’m capable of, and showcase my skills.”