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Corey Anderson: A Student of the Game

 
Within 61 seconds of fight time, 24 significant strikes were landed, two takedowns were scored, a TKO stoppage was called and The Ultimate Fighter winner was crowned.

This is the new Corey Anderson.

For the TUF 19 faithful viewers, the former NCAA Division III All-American wrestler’s performances in the house compared to the one in the finale was like night and day. And he wouldn’t disagree, but there’s an obvious answer - Anderson got better.

“When I was on the show, I had only been training fighting for five to six months,” Anderson explains. “There were a lot of things I didn’t know about the sport. I was just using my athletic ability in certain situations to win, scramble, to win these battles and brawls and what not. I was trying to just get out of the fight alive. Going into the finale, I had a lot more time working with high-level coaches. Nothing against my coaches back home, but they didn’t know as much as Mark Henry and Ricardo Almeida - the coaches out here in Jersey.”

Many tried to attribute the 25-year-old’s newly discovered aggressive striking as a reaction to the scurrilous commentary of the show’s lackluster fights, which is simply untrue. “What critics say, doesn’t determine my fight style,” asserts Anderson. A lot more likely, his much improved stand-up came from doubling his MMA training experience from November to July while working with his new fight family, and it showed in the form of the punch-heavy, quick finish of Matt Van Buren.

“I moved out to New Jersey after the show because of the things I was learning from Frankie Edgar on the show in that short time,” Anderson said. “I thought to myself, ‘what would happen if these were my full-time coaches?’ I learn at a fast pace, so I could really take off with this team. So, I made the move. Everybody was thinking I was a one-dimensional fighter and I went into the cage a three-dimensional fighter. I was coming in at every angle. I mixed it up. I was a mixed martial artist; that’s all I ever wanted to be. I achieved that.”

Winning the show wasn’t just about the undefeated light heavyweight accomplishing a goal; it was the opportunity for the Illinois native to make being a professional athlete his life. “Sometimes I wake up and I think, ‘what do I have to do today?’ I don’t have to do anything but train,” Anderson said, happy with a move from a life which had him working three different jobs and still trying to find an hour or two to train at one point. Actually, Anderson sleeps with his UFC contract next to his bed, so when he awakes he sees it wasn’t just a dream.

Up next, “Beastin 25/8” will aim to impress, yet again, on December 6th at UFC 181 against debutant Justin “Lazybones” Jones. With an unblemished pro record, Jones is making the jump into the big leagues following the withdrawal of two previous opponents for Anderson. A product of Victory MMA in San Diego, Jones has scored a knockout and back-to-back guillotine choke submissions in his three pro bouts, which all were fought earlier this year.

“I don’t really know much about him,” Anderson said. “I’m looking forward to this fight regardless of who it is at this point. I just want to get back in the cage and put on a show for [UFC President] Dana White and the people, and, hopefully, leave there with a W and a bonus check. The only thing that changed for me is the name on the contract. I went to the gym and told the coaches and they were like, ‘Is he southpaw or orthodox?’ Orthodox. ‘Oh yeah?’ Nothing changed. We went back to striking the same, throwing kicks the same, same jiu-jitsu, same ground and pound. Everything I’m doing is to be the best in the world, not to just compete and beat the next opponent.”

As mentioned, Anderson is a new resident of New Jersey and he is busy training with some of the best and brightest The Garden State has to offer. “When you hit the ground, Ricardo speaks and, when you stand up, Mark takes over,” he said of the dynamic duo of BJJ black belt Ricardo Almeida and boxing coach Mark Henry. Evidenced in Anderson’s Octagon debut, he has clearly taken to Henry’s approach to striking, which requires an iPad and homework to get those results.

“Mark is a scientist,” says Anderson. “He takes his iPad out and films you. He takes that home and watches it over and over and over. Countless hours studying it. The next time you get together, he has a whole notebook of notes on what you did wrong and what you did well. I started carrying a notebook and I bought an iPad. I started filming everything and I started writing everything down. Like Rashad Evans said, his coaching has a science to it. It’s not an easy science. It’s not like you can just come in and pick it up. It’s very difficult. It’s like going to the Harvard of boxing when you’re with Mark. We train to make us better as fighters against any opponent. If the opponent changes, it doesn’t matter.”

On a somber note, Anderson will be dedicating his performance to the memory of Bryce Givens and Paul Criscuolo, who both had a great affect on Anderson and passed far too young. Givens was one of Anderson’s best friends in high school, was the co-captain of the school’s wrestling team and had started coaching high school wrestling back in Illinois. Criscuolo was a boxing coach at Nick Catone’s MMA and had been working with Anderson weekly during this fight camp.

At UFC 181, Beastin 25/8 is ready to keep shattering expectations as he collides with Jones.


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