After a hot start to his UFC career, Eryk Anders has hit a rough patch. Three-straight losses forced him to re-evaluate his approach and make changes to both his physical and mental state prior to his next bout.
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“Ya Boy” has a chance to right the ship at UFC Minneapolis on June 29. He continues his quest at light heavyweight with a bout against Vinicius Moreira, a Brazilian submission specialist who lost his promotional debut at UFC Brooklyn earlier this year.
Prior to strapping on the gloves, Anders spoke to John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock about his most recent Octagon appearance, utilizing a hypnotist, training with Freddie Roach and feeling confident about his next fight.
Eryk Anders vs. Khalil Rountree
At UFC 236, Anders was on the wrong side of a lopsided decision victory. In his bout with Khalil Rountree, his second as a light heavyweight in the UFC, Anders was unable to slow down Rountree’s Muay Thai attack.
Rountree brutalized Anders’ leg, limiting his movement. As a stationary target, Anders could do little to avoid Rountree’s punches and was dropped multiple times. Anders continued to get up and keep fighting, displaying his toughness as the fight went the distance.
The fight drew criticism from media members such as Brendan Schaub, who said on his show Below The Belt that Anders’ corner should’ve thrown in the towel. Anders was quick to come to the defense of his coaches.
“I really don’t watch anything that [Schaub] does and, you know, he’s not me,” Anders said. “I’m glad he’s not in my corner if that’s how he feels.”
Anders trusts that his team knows how to handle situations like the one he experienced against Rountree.
“If my corner ever throws in the towel for me, then, you know, they’re probably not going to be in my corner anymore,” Anders said. “They know me. They know the way I compete and the kind of competitor I am, and as long as I can still compete and go out there and fight, then that’s what I’m gonna do, you know, regardless of how each round goes.”
Seeing a hypnotist
The experience of competing against Rountree wasn’t all bad for Anders. Through his talks with his opponent, Anders found a new feature to add to his pre-fight routine: hypnotism.
Anders previously had little issue with the mental aspect of fighting.
“My first 10 or so fights, I could visualize the fight so vividly,” Anders said. “I would get an adrenaline rush. I would get goosebumps. But for whatever reason, I had a really tough time getting myself there these last few fights.”
Rountree told him about Dominique Bertoncini, a hypnotist who works with a number of UFC fighters. Anders was skeptical at first, but he witnessed firsthand how effective it was for Rountree.
“Watching film on Khalil and his mannerisms and behavior before our fight and then actually fighting him and seeing how different they were, I think that was the biggest aspect of his game that changed,” Anders said.
Ultimately, Anders decided to try it himself. He’ll attempt to re-capture the ability to visualize his fights, starting with his bout at UFC Minneapolis.
“I think that’s maybe something I’ve neglected and just taken my power for granted, think[ing] I’m going to go out there and knock everybody out,” Anders said. “I took a few steps back and really wanted to work on the mental side.”
Eryk Anders and Freddie Roach
Anders also worked to re-tool his striking following his string of losses.
“[I’m] changing up the training a little bit,” Anders said. “Not necessarily trying to put so much power on every punch, but looking to increase the volume, and the knockout will come as a result of such.”
In order to do so, he went to one of the best boxing coaches in the game: Freddie Roach. Roach has trained a number of world-class fighters over the years in both boxing and MMA. Names like Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo top the list of MMA fighters who spent time learning under the legendary coach.
Anders took a trip to Los Angeles, California for the chance to work with Roach at Wild Card Boxing Club.
“I walked into the gym, and it was funny because you would think a dude like Freddie Roach isn’t just standing at the front desk just talking to people,” Anders said.
After the initial surprise, Anders remembered what he had flown out for. Once he got his chance to speak to Roach, Anders wasted no time trying to pick his brain.
“The dude is just so knowledgeable about combat sports and he trains a lot of good guys,” Anders said. “So, you know, I figured I’d shoot my shot and get some work too.”
Eryk Anders isn’t feeling the pressure
Although he is working hard to get moving in the right direction again, Anders doesn’t let his losses keep him up at night.
“I really don’t feel like I’m under a lot of pressure,” he said. “I’ve got enough residual income that I can stop fighting today and me and the family will still be straight.”
Financial stability has been key to alleviating the stress of losing fights. For others who aren’t so lucky, one loss spells the end of the dream of being a professional fighter. Getting their pay cut in half makes it difficult to pay gym fees, medical bills and other expenses.
“I think a lot of guys that feel the pressure,” Anders said. “If they don’t make the money or they get cut, then that’s it. Then they got to go back to the desk or whatever, but that’s not the case for me.”
Anders is grateful to have a wife who can support their family as well. Still, he doesn’t want to stop competing at the highest level. Anders maintains the same love for fighting, which is why he decided to step in and take this fight against Moreira just two months after his loss to Rountree.
“Vinicius’ opponent got hurt. They called me and of course I said yes,” Anders said. “This is what I love. This is what I do, so I take every opportunity to do it.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.