When Corey Anderson asked for his release from the UFC before eventually signing with Bellator MMA, he had a multitude of reasons behind that decision.
Money. Promotional push. Better opportunities.
Those were all at the forefront in Anderson’s mind but he also went to Bellator knowing that the light heavyweight division in the ViacomCBS-owned promotion would offer him a legitimate challenge. Current champion Vadim Nemkov is currently riding a seven-fight win streak capped off by a one-sided performance to take the title away from former UFC contender Ryan Bader.
Of course, Bader still looms large over the division as well as former NCAA champion Phil Davis and ex-UFC champ Lyoto Machida. Recently, Bellator has bolstered the light heavyweight roster with additions such as Anderson and a pair of multi-time UFC title contenders in Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and Yoel Romero.
In Anderson’s mind, that not only adds up to some serious competition for him at 205 pounds in Bellator, it’s a lineup that rivals anyone currently competing in the UFC.
“I just feel right now Bellator has the upper hand,” Anderson told MMA Fighting. “[Jon] Jones has left. They’ve got these hype trains. These young guys UFC has coming in they’re trying to hype up but I feel like their legitimacy aren’t like the vets that were there that are in Bellator now.”
When looking at the best fighters in Bellator and the UFC, Anderson makes a case that his new promotional home can absolutely stake a claim to the top 205-pound division in the sport.
“These last two signings they made definitely made it a stronger case,” Anderson said. “At first, I was in the UFC and I was No. 4 when I left. The only person I hadn’t fought was Jon Jones and Dominick Reyes. I had beat Jan Blachowicz once and Anthony Smith was above me but we see where Anthony Smith’s at now. He just got first win in a while against an unranked guy.
“Then you’ve got me, Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson, Yoel Romero, two guys right there that fought for titles. Me, who was on the cusp of a title. Then you’ve got Nemkov, who just beat Ryan Bader. You’ve got ‘Rumble,’ who beat Ryan Bader. You’ve got Phil Davis. You’ve got all these names who have already fought at the top of the UFC.”
While Anderson fully expects an argument to be made that many of the best fighters competing at light heavyweight in Bellator came there after leaving the UFC as if their time was up, he would counter by pointing to the resumes possessed by those athletes.
“They say ‘oh these guys are washed up, they got cut from the UFC.’ No, they got treated wrong and they left,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to think about all the people who were cut from the UFC and came back to do what they’re doing. That kid Brandon Moreno was cut from the UFC and he came back and fought for the title.
“Being cut doesn’t mean nothing. You get cut for saying the wrong thing. You get cut for having a couple of bad fights. It happens. But that don’t take the fact that these guys are legit contenders or one of the best in the world.”
Anderson knows that UFC president Dana White will shout to the heavens that he’s always had the better light heavyweight division but just because he says it doesn’t mean it’s true.
With the UFC looking to cut down the overall number of fighters on the roster, their loss has become Bellator’s gain and Anderson sees that as a real advantage for the organization where he currently competes.
“It’s big names coming,” Anderson said. “That’s just making the legitimacy of Bellator, not just at 205 but the promotion with the moves they’re making, period. It makes them look very legit. The UFC are cutting ties with a lot of people, letting a lot of people go. A lot of the people that I feel shouldn’t be let go. That’s just making us stronger over in Bellator. Making us look even better.
“Dana’s always going to say his division’s the best. He’s going to say whatever he has to bag the reason why he had to let these people go, make it seem legit, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you say. World champs or not, they were some of the best in the world.
“Yeah, you let go of Yoel Romero cause he’s 40 years old or whatever and he’s like 1-4 in his last five or whatever but all of his last fights were title fights. What does that say? If he was fighting for titles in the UFC all his last fights, that means there’s a reason. He’s really good. He’s coming over the Bellator. Just another reason to make Bellator that much better. I’m just excited.”