Losing is part of the game. It’s part of any game really, or else it wouldn’t be a game. Even the famed University of Alabama football program has had its share of rough years.
In 2006, the Crimson Tide finished the season 6-7. After an NCAA investigation, the program was forced to vacate the six wins, making their official record 0-7 for the season. The following year, the program got on the winning side of things with a 7-6 record, but had to vacate five of those victories as part of the same investigation. This was famed head coach Nick Saban’s first year with the program, which was the beginning of a huge turnaround.
In 2008, Alabama finished 12-2. In 2009, not only did the team finish undefeated, but they won Saban his first championship with the program and his second overall. The years 2006-09 were the seasons that current UFC fighter Eryk Anders was with the program, and a heads-up play by the former linebacker was integral in changing the momentum of the championship game.
Anders has been on the winning side of things in football, but he has also been on the losing end. He has seen both sides of the coin in his professional MMA career as well.
Following his college football career, Anders joined the corporate world for a short stint. It wasn’t for him, though. He thrives on the thrill of competition, and so he started training in MMA. Anders made his pro debut in 2015. In only 28 months, he compiled a 10-0 record, including a 2-0 mark in the UFC. This meteoric rise landed him on the main card against former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida in Machida’s hometown of Belem, Brazil.
“Every fight has a history of its own,” Anders told Combat Press. “The last fight is not always indicative of the next one, so just because I had success in my last one, it doesn’t guarantee success in the next one. It’s where my mindset has always been. I’ve been competing forever. There have been a lot of ups and a lot of downs, but the world keeps spinning.”
The bout resulted in Anders’ first pro defeat when he dropped a very controversial decision to Machida. He got back in the win column with a third-round knockout of Tim Williams in August 2018 before dropping three more in a row in just seven months. Anders picked himself up each time, got back to work, and was able to return to the win column with a first-round knockout of Vinicius Moreira in June.
Most fighters cannot handle the quick ups and downs of the fight game, especially in such a short period of time. Anders did. His experience over two super-tough seasons in his early college-football days was key.
“I think growing up playing sports you learn that losses are part of the game and you can bounce back and get right up, and, you know, still win the race,” Anders said. “Some of these guys haven’t experienced losing like that, so they don’t know what it is.”
Anders has failed to notch back-to-back wins in almost two years now. On Saturday night, he will finally have the chance to buck this current trend when he faces Gerald Meerschaert on the main card of UFC on ESPN+ 19, which takes place in Tampa, Fla.
Meerschaert has had his own ups and downs. In his last six fights, he is just 3-3. His last outing ended in a submission win over Trevin Giles, but he had dropped his previous two contests. The Roufusport veteran has scored a whopping 21 submissions in 40 pro fights, whereas Anders has eight knockouts in 16 fights.
“He’s going to be dangerous until the end of the fight,” said Anders. “He has a way of finding people’s backs and getting submissions. Whether it be early in the fight, after taking a beating or giving a beating, it doesn’t matter how the fight is going for him, the submission’s always there.
“I’m coming forward with heavy pressure. I have good takedown defense. I think he’s going to have trouble getting the fight to the mat or holding me against the cage.”
After spending time training at various gyms throughout Colorado, Texas, and various other places, Anders returned to Birmingham, Ala. It served as the location for his last camp, and it allows him to stay at home with his wife and two kids. When they aren’t running around to take their kids to sports or school, Anders is training and dieting.
“I think it’s very important to start a winning streak and start moving my way up the ranks,” Anders admitted. “I just love it, man. I’ve always loved training for this sport. It’s really fun for me — especially competing. There’s a big void in my life without competition. I’m going to do it until the wheels fall off.”