Corey Anderson knows that UFC hype can be a fickle beast.
For some athletes like Israel Adesanya, it gives them the opportunity to shine at a much faster pace than others. The payoff is significant for someone like the UFC middleweight champ.
For every success story, however, there are a long list of fighters tagged as ‘the next big thing,’ only to watch the hype evaporate when they suffer a loss – or even a string of defeats.
Heading into UFC 244 on Saturday, Brazilian knockout artist Johnny Walker has a ton of hype surrounding his name. It didn’t take long; he earned three victories inside the Octagon in less than three minutes of combined cage time.
Walker has been touted as the biggest threat to reigning light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. And that’s exactly why Anderson was more than happy to accept the challenge to fight him in New York.
Anderson has scratched and clawed his way up the light heavyweight rankings ever since joining the UFC roster with a win on “The Ultimate Fighter.” But his slow and steady pace hardly has gotten the same attention as a trio of splashy finishes that fit in a TikTok video.
If Anderson hopes to secure his own shot at Jones and the title, Anderson has to bring Walker back down to Earth, which is what he plans on doing when they clash on Saturday night.
“It’s sink or swim right now,” Anderson said about Walker when speaking to MMA Fighting. “That’s exactly where it is for Johnny Walker now. He’s finished those guys, but this is a big step up. This is different. He knocked out Khalil Rountree, Misha Cirkunov and Justin Ledet, who doesn’t have a win at 205 [pounds].
“Yeah he’s fancy, yeah he’s exciting. He does things that make the needle move, but if you go back and watch his fights against somebody that’s game, he’s human. He’s been knocked out twice from getting touched with a right hand. People don’t see that.”
As much as he’d like the same kind of attention that Walker receives, Anderson is all about longevity in the sport. He’s faced tough losses in the past, but over the course of time, the 30-year-old light heavyweight has learned valuable lessons he believes will prepare him for becoming a champion.
Anderson isn’t so sure that Walker is ready for that next level of competition after only three fights in the UFC. But he’s happy to conduct a test.
“It’s kind of like Nate Diaz said after his last fight,” he said. “Everybody’s talking about this guy or that guy, but if you go back and look at all these guys who were all hyped up and where are they now? They’re either still here and not winning, or they’re gone.
“I’ve been here for five years and they’re still looking past me. I’ve been knocked out and I’ve lost, but I’ve won a lot more. I’ve beat all the top guys. When you look at all these guys and they’ve been hyped up and pumped up to be the next big thing, where are they now?”
Anderson is not going to suddenly try to become someone he’s not just to get a few more likes on Twitter or Instagram. Instead, he just wants to keep on winning, and if that means grounding the high-flying Walker for three straight rounds, that’s what he’s going to do.
“F*ck what the fans say,” Anderson defiantly stated. “I’m going out there and dominating people from start to finish. I’m not doing one lucky punch or spinning kick and catching somebody. I’m going to own you—not beat you—own you from the first bell to the last bell.
“You go to the locker room, or you go home, and the next time they mention my name, you have nightmares. You will remember, ‘Corey Anderson beat the brakes off me, and I do not want to fight him again.’ If you don’t believe me, ask Jan Blachowicz, because he told me and my wife to our faces he still has nightmares about me to this day.”
A statement win for Anderson will also undoubtedly serve as a downfall for Walker and the New Jersey trained light heavyweight contender can already imagine the headlines come Sunday morning.
“If he goes out there and loses now—especially to me—everybody who has lost to me has not been given the same respect ever again,” Anderson said. “If he goes out there and loses to me, he might as well kiss his chances goodbye. Because that’s just the way it works.
“You lose to me cause I’m boring, but in the real fans’ eyes I’m a mixed martial artist. I can do it all. I don’t have to depend on one shot to land. He’s used to going against these guys with one trick. He goes out there and loses to me, his chances are going to be done. They’re doing him dirty. They should have given him somebody that he could have recovered from.”