On Sunday, Corey Anderson completed a huge step in his journey from The Ultimate Fighter winner to UFC championship contender.
Anderson took a gamble stepping in on two weeks’ notice for an injured Ilir Latifi to fight one-time light heavyweight title challenger Glover Teixeira, and the risk paid off huge for the 28-year-old as he won a convincing three-round decision in the co-main event of UFC Hamburg.
Heading into the contest, Teixeira was No. 3 in the UFC’s official light heavyweight rankings, and Anderson believes it’s only fair that Teixeira’s position belong to him now.
“I think it puts me in the No. 3 spot,” Anderson said at the evening’s post-fight press conference. “I took out the No. 3 guy, why wouldn’t I take his position? I think it puts me in a setup to fight No. 2, whether it’s Volkan (Oezdemir) or (Alexander) Gustafsson, whatever. If Anthony (Smith) wants to fight Gus, give him Gus, I’ll take Volkan.
“They say Gustafsson just got pulled from 227 too, so when they both heal up, if they don’t rematch them two and they want to give them different opponents, I’ll take Volkan and Smith can take Gus. Or I’ll take one of my losses, rematch against [Ovince Saint Preux] or Jimi (Manuwa).
“I don’t duck and dodge, I don’t pick fights,” Anderson added. “I just want to be the best and I said it when I lost overseas last time, I might not be the best now, but I will be when I leave the game. And if I’ve got to fight everybody to prove it, that’s what I have to do.”
Anderson was certainly at his best in Hamburg, outworking the favored Teixeira for 15 minutes and managing to avoid the worst of the Brazilian’s power punches. It was vindication for Anderson, who felt that many were counting him out before he even made the walk to the Octagon.
“The game plan in every fight is to go out there and dominate,” Anderson said. “It’s no strict game plan, but we’re going to go to wherever the fight goes and if he leaves an opening there go get takedowns, you’re a hell of a wrestler, outwrestle him; if the opening is there for the hands, out-strike him. We’re going to take the fight wherever it is and just dominate. Keep pressure on him and just stay on him, push the pace, pace change, 15 minutes.
“Everybody talked about it, I was the underdog, there’s now way Corey can beat Glover. He hits too hard, he’s gonna knock him out, his wrestling, his jiu-jitsu, but I went out there and I shut down everything they said. I took him down when I wanted to, I rocked him when I wanted to, and I out-jiu-jitsu’d a black belt. I think I did exactly what I planned to do.”
Anderson’s win might have been the most notable one of the night were it not for Smith destroying the legendary Mauricio Rua in the very next fight. After knocking out “Shogun,” Smith offered to take a short-notice fight with Gustafsson at UFC 227 — his post-match interview occurred shortly before news broke that Gustafsson has been forced to withdraw from the Aug. 4 show — but a potential meeting with Anderson also makes sense due to them both being victorious Sunday.
With a lofty new spot in the rankings, Anderson said he’d welcome a fight with Smith even if it isn’t his first choice by any stretch.
“I actually did see the fight and it was a nice fight, congrats to Anthony,” Anderson said. “If he wants the work, if he wants the sauce, he can get the sauce.
“But I think right now, like I said in my interview, I’m trying to get the best fights to get me to the title as soon as possible. Anthony actually called me out on Twitter for the UFC Lincoln, Nebraska fight or whatever and it didn’t get any retweets or any posts so I paid no attention, like, ‘Who the f*ck is this guy?’”
The only significant damage that Anderson took in the bout was an injury to his middle finger. He couldn’t say exactly when the injury happened, but didn’t think it was too severe. His team thinks he may have a fracture and the plan is see a doctor when he gets home and then return to the gym shortly.
Any further setbacks could disrupt Anderson’s timetable. He’s made it his goal to win a championship by the time he’s 30 and that self-imposed deadline is rapidly approaching.
“I want to be the champion as soon as possible,” Anderson said. “As soon as they give me the title shot, I’m gonna take it. But I’m gonna take it and be prepared. I’m gonna put the time in the gym as I always do and do whatever it is to get it.
“I want it by the time I’m 30. I’m 28 now, I still got time, but if you plan on having it in 2019, you’re going to have to fight me for it or wait until I retire.”