Eryk Anders traded football for MMA, but he believes his story might still be used to inspire his former University of Alabama teammates.
Anders (9-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) made one hell of a UFC entrance at last Saturday’s UFC on FOX 25, where he plowed through octagon veteran Rafael Natal (22-8-1 MMA, 9-7-1 UFC) en route to a first-round knockout. After the fight, he spoke a little about his background as a linebacker – and even explained why he prefers his new sport.
Speaking to MMAjunkie Radio, Anders says word of his win had already spread among his football peers. And while he’s yet to hear from Alabama coach Nick Saban, he would assume at this point he’s caught wind of his spectacular UFC debut.
Why Ex-Alabama linebacker Eryk Anders prefers MMA over football
“He’s always looking for an example for the guys,” Anders said. “Maybe he’ll use me as an example of a guy who took the road less traveled and is kind of making it happen in his own way.”
Anders, who helped lead Alabama to a national title in 2009, says he has already received an outpouring of support from fellow former teammates.
“Mark Ingram, Kareem Jackson, Alphonse Taylor, O.J. Howard,” Anders said. “A bunch of guys. Really showing a lot of love and respect for what I’m doing and what I did.”
The undefeated Anders has certainly proven worthy of such respect when it comes to the cage. Not only did his UFC debut stem from a short-notice call after Alessio Di Chirico was unable to make the UFC on FOX 25 middleweight bout with Natal, it came only days after Anders won LFA’s middleweight title.
For Natal, the set-up wasn’t particularly ideal either. According to him, Anders was actually the fourth opponent presented to him. Not to mention the pressure of meeting a newcomer in what was quite close to a hometown scrap for the long-time New York resident.
As far as who had the odds stacked against him goes, however, Anders thinks he still takes the cake.
“At the same time, he should’ve been consistently training,” Anders said. “Because he knew he was going to have a fight anyway. Me, on the other hand, I was just coming off a fight. They called me a week or two before the fight. I had to cut weight and put together a gameplan and whatnot. Fighting a vet, in New York, where he’s from.”
But unlike the veteran Natal, who might just have his job threatened now with a dangerous three-fight octagon skid, Anders is off to a promising octagon start.
“I’m just glad I was able to get out there and put on the performance that I wanted,” Anders said. “Got that knockout and put the rest of the division on notice.”
For complete coverage of UFC on FOX 25, check out the UFC Events section of the site.
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