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Eryk Anders: It was ‘valuable’ to train with Stephen Thompson ahead of UFC Belem Machida bout

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UFC Fight Night 125 headliner Eryk Anders trained with Stephen Thompson for a week ahead of his fight against Lyoto Machida in Belem on Saturday.

Eryk Anders picked what many would consider the ideal training partner ahead of his first UFC main event against Lyoto Machida.

During his UFC Fight Night 125 training camp, “Ya Boi” made the trek to Simpsonville, South Carolina to visit former welterweight title challenger Stephen Thompson at Pitch Black MMA. Anders trained with “Wonderboy,” who uses a traditional karate stance in his fights like Machida, for a week.

“I’ve trained with him in the past,” Anders told BloodyElbow.com. “He has a similar but different style than Machida. I think he’s younger, more explosive — he possesses better attributes than Lyoto Machida. [Machida] is certainly not in his prime anymore, so going out there and seeing that kind of speed and that look that ‘Wonderboy’ was able to provide for me was valuable to my training.”

Anders did not consider bringing Thompson out to Birmingham, Alabama, where he trains. He knew if he wanted to get time in with the No. 1-ranked welterweight, it’d have to be on Thompson’s home turf.

“I actually went to him. He’s the superstar. I’m just trying to get where he’s at,” Anders said. “I hit him up, [asked] if it was cool if I could come down and work with him and Karl Reed for a week or so. He — him and his dad, Ray Thompson — said, ‘For sure, anytime you want.’ I went out there, got the looks, and came back home.”

Anders said that he would have been OK to face Machida even if he hadn’t trained with “Wonderboy,” but admitted that working with Thompson certainly helped him prepare for the Brazilian — Anders’ biggest test to date.

“I got plenty of guys in the gym who are excellent at mimicking my opponents — they kind of try what they do,” Anders said. “But when you have a guy who’s trying to do it for a month or so versus a guy who’s been doing it his whole life, if you have the opportunity to get a look from the guy who’s been doing it his whole life, that’s probably the guy you want to work with for a little bit.”

Anders only got seven days in with Thompson. In the future, even if he isn’t fighting a karate-based competitor, he’d like to meet up with Thompson again — and for a longer period of time.

“Wonderboy is my dog. We get along great. We’re really good friends,” he said. “I want to get up there and train with him as much as possible.”

Anders is a former college football player for Alabama Crimson Tide. He is undefeated in MMA, and won the LFA middleweight title in his last fight before getting the call to the UFC.

He made his debut against veteran Rafael Natal last summer and stopped the Brazilian in the first round. In his sophomore appearance, Natal defeated fellow former LFA champ Markus Perez by decision.

Anders meets Machida in Belem, Brazil on Saturday, Feb. 3. The six-fight main card airs live on FOX Sports 1.

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