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Taking UFC Sao Paulo main event slot on six days’ notice ‘not a big deal’ for Eryk Anders

Eryk Anders
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Eryk Anders isn’t playing around when he talks about being prepared for a main event opportunity at the drop of a hat.

If there was any doubt that the former Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker maintains his fitness year-round, it was dispelled by the announcement that Anders had accepted a fight on six days’ notice with the dangerous Thiago Santos to save the main event of UFC Sao Paulo this Saturday.

According to Anders, he got the call Sunday, was on a plane by Monday, and arrived in Brazil on Tuesday.

“I stay ready. Even though I just fought and I took a few days just to recuperate from the fight,” Anders told MMA Fighting. “I had just got back from Vegas training at the UFC PI and Xtreme Couture when they called me, so it wasn’t a big deal, it’s not like I was just sitting on the couch doing nothing. I’m always ready for opportunities like this and I’m chomping at the bit to get in there on Saturday.”

It’s been less than a month since Anders’s last fight, which took place at UFC Lincoln on Aug. 25. Anders was coming off of the first loss of his MMA career, a split call against former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, and he got back on the winning track in definitive fashion with a third-round head kick KO of Tim Williams.

The finish netted him a $50,000 performance bonus, but he also walked out with a 30-day medical suspension. According to Williams, it didn’t take much paperwork to get him cleared by a physician and his plans to spend some of that bonus cash on a vacation to Spain were unaffected by his sudden fight booking.

“You know, the UFC has a way of making some of those medical suspensions go away to get the fights that they want to get going,” said Anders. “The UFC took care of that, I’m good to go, I’m 100 percent, and I get back home Monday morning and then fly out Tuesday morning. My wife and I are going to Spain, so it will be a good time.”

Anders has several good reasons for agreeing to take a fight on such short notice. For one, he and his team used this opportunity to re-structure his current contract with the UFC, setting up a new four-fight deal plus some “nice incentives” heading into the Santos fight. He also doesn’t have to cut much weight since Santos is transitioning to light heavyweight, meaning Anders, who competes at middleweight, only has to make the 205-pound limit (when Anders spoke to MMA Fighting, he said he had just come back from a buffet).

Taking another booking also keeps Anders on track to log four fights this year, something he also managed in 2017 and 2016. Health-permitting, he’s looking forward to settling a grudge with Elias Theodorou at UFC 231 in Toronto. Theodorou was originally booked to fight Antonio Carlos Junior at UFC Sao Paulo, but an injury to Carlos Junior forced that outing to be re-booked for the Toronto show; unfortunately, Carlos Junior later announced that he requires surgery to address the injury, once again opening the door for Theodoru to face a replacement.

“Carlos Junior, ‘Shoeface’, he’s already hurt so Theodorou doesn’t have an opponent for that Toronto card,” said Anders. “So he got on Twitter and said that if I win this fight he’ll fight me, so I hope he’s prepared to eat s**t come Saturday.”

Not one to look past his opponents, Anders is excited at the prospect of standing and trading with Santos, one of the UFC’s most respected knockout artists. He’s spoke in the past about wanting to show off his jiu-jitsu acumen, something that he hasn’t had the chance to do inside the Octagon, and he doesn’t expect that to come into play against Santos either.

“I like the hands, I like to bang it out, but I’m well rounded,” said Anders. “It doesn’t matter where the fight takes place, I have this strange feeling the fight’s going to take place on the feet.

“I’m not really sure that Thiago is looking for takedowns and stuff like that, so I’m more than happy to oblige him on the feet, but if it hits the ground at any point in time, no matter where we’re at if I’m on top or bottom, I’m very confident in my ability to get the job done.”