|Place: SAP Center, California Date: friday april 15|
|Cover: Watch live coverage on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer from 23:00 GMT; reaction on the BBC Sport website and app.|
Inside Corey Anderson’s office is an exercise bike, a spotlight, a fitting center, flags from sponsors of his greatest fights, and the head of the first deer he killed with a bow.
The Bellator light-heavyweight title challenger has had a long fighting career – and an even longer hunt.
While hunting in the UK is much more restricted with very polarizing attitudes towards it, it is a big part of the culture for many in the US.
The harshness with which Anderson speaks will come as a shock to many in the UK, but it is indicative of the differences between the two countries.
Anderson, who made his professional MMA debut in 2013 after wrestling in high school and college, can’t remember the first time he went hunting.
But he told BBC Sport: “It’s something I grew up with, bringing food, supplying and cooking your own harvest.
“Ever since I can remember I had a gun in my hand, I was rabbit hunting with my dad. When I was 12 or 13 he gave me my first bow and my first arrows and I started target shooting. I went hunting with my bow for the first hour at 16.”
It would take another six years for Anderson to shoot his first deer with a bow – a real lesson in patience. “It was an adrenaline rush,” he says of the feeling, which he likens to a fight.
“For me, they go together. It’s the same when it comes to the mental aspect and the sharpness.
“When I shoot my bow, it’s sort of a martial art. You can only shoot a certain distance from a deer, you have to be tactical.
“Everything has to be lined up perfectly to get that perfect shot. The same with fighting. I have to make sure I move to get everything lined up.
“I can’t just throw punches, I have to be in the right position. I have to be in the right place to throw the punch.”
Endless attitude served Anderson well in the cage. He suffered big losses to Jan Blachowicz, Ovince Saint Preux and Briton Jimi Manuwa while in the UFC.
Five losses in total, four by knockout, left Anderson stranded in his career at times, and he left the UFC disappointed with the lack of confidence the promotion seemed to have in him.
Now in Bellator, he is on the cusp of the most important fight of his life.
“If I stop, there is something that is not done”
Anderson, 32, takes on the light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov in the final of the 205lb tournament at Bellator 277. In addition to the title up for grabs, there’s a $1 million prize for the winner.
The fights may come first, but Anderson is an avid hunter, gets paid to do it, and does all the editing for his YouTube channel that documents his exploits. He also has a young family to take care of and a wife to take care of.
“That’s why they call me ‘Overtime’,” he says. “I don’t stop, I can’t stop – I don’t have time. If I stop, there’s something not getting done.
“My wife always tells me I have to rest. I can’t sit still, I have so much to do. I get paid for everything I do. I have to earn money. It’s hard of balance but I do it, I have to do it.”
The DC Seal of Approval
Anderson is full of confidence these days. According to the Illinois native, he is the best light heavyweight fighter in the world. There’s not the slightest doubt in his mind that he can’t beat 29-year-old Russian Nemkov, who has two defeats to his name.
But Anderson hasn’t always expressed his self-confidence so well. It took training with UFC legend and two-weight champion Daniel Cormier to inspire him.
“DC was the champion back then – one of the greatest of all time,” Anderson recalled. “He said to me, ‘There’s no reason you shouldn’t be the 205-pound champion. The only person in front of you is you. You make mistakes, you’re too good to be knocked out and caught with silly stuff.”
“Since then, I’ve been bathed in that confidence. The champion told me that. I can’t just say it, I have to believe it.
“I can be the best, but I have to make sure I get to the goal. Then I can say I did everything I said I would do, I did it, I did it. won the belt.”