Corey Anderson was lost.
Coming off a knockout to future UFC champion Jan Blachowicz, which stopped the momentum he was building towards a title shot of his own, the ex-Ultimate Fighter winner was at a crossroads in his career when he was invited to help Daniel Cormier prepare for his upcoming trilogy bout against Stipe Miocic.
Following the training camp, Anderson felt good about the work he did with the team at American Kickboxing Academy but what Cormier said to him afterwards changed his career trajectory forever.
“Before I left, he goes ‘Corey, I’m going to be honest with you, I commentate and I fight and there is no reason why you should not be UFC champion by the end of 2020,’” Anderson revealed when speaking to MMA Fighting. “[DC told me] ‘there’s no reason you shouldn’t be champion.’ It was just from the work we put in and he could see the way I train and compete. He could see how good I was.
“He said ‘let’s put it this way — there’s only been one person I’ve been able to go five rounds straight and give me work, constant competition and that’s Cain Velasquez and you’ve seen what he’s done, right? You’re the only person I’ve ever had come into camp and compete with me and put work in and take me down and you hit me back when I hit you. Most guys can’t do that and I’ve beat everybody in the division and I was the world champ at 205 [pounds]. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be [champion].’”
Hearing that from a former two-division champion made all the difference in the world to Anderson, who admittedly carried around a lot of self-doubt despite hearing similar praise from his coaches ever since he earned his spot on the UFC roster.
Considering he once looked at Cormier as one of his biggest rivals as he pursued a championship in the UFC, Anderson started to understand that perhaps he was his own biggest hindrance to reaching the full potential he had as a fighter.
“You go with a guy like DC, who you don’t really know that well and you help him train, and he tells you this and it’s like maybe what my coaches have been telling me this whole time is true,” Anderson said. “Maybe I just need to believe more. Have confidence in myself more. That’s what happened.
“I came over to Bellator and I brought that with me. Leaving the UFC and the bad blood had boiled to a point where it wasn’t fun to fight anymore. It was fighting for my job and fighting to prove a point every time. When I came to Bellator, it was a new slate. I was having fun again and I had this confidence that DC helped me recognize in myself and now I put all three things together — have fun, be confident and just be patient.”
It meant the world to Anderson to hear that from Cormier and the confidence he gained from that conversation has only multiplied over his last three wins in a row.
“It lifted a big burden lifted off my back,” Anderson said. “Cause that was one of the champs I was looking to fight and beat at one point. He even called Ali [Abdelaziz], my manager, and said ‘I’m glad I didn’t take that fight and I was talking trash to Corey on Twitter, I’m glad I didn’t take that fight, this kid is actually good.’
“To hear that, he ain’t just blowing smoke. I’m that good, I just had to believe it.”
Cormier also helped Anderson move past the animosity he had been harboring during the end of his run in the UFC when it seemed like he was constantly battling with executives like Dana White over his treatment in the promotion.
In the middle of a four-fight win streak at the time, Anderson still didn’t receive much consideration at all for a potential title shot, which only fueled his rage that much more.
Ultimately, Anderson says Cormier explained to him that he was holding on too tightly to a desire to earn respect in the UFC when really he should have been only worried about his own personal gains in the sport.
“The way DC told me ‘you fell in love with three letters — UFC,’” Anderson explained. “That’s all it was cause that’s all you see on social media.’
“Those three letters aren’t going to pay your kid’s college tuition. Those three letters aren’t going to pay you more. I made a financial choice. I was trying to stay in the UFC for three letters. DC loves the UFC, he’s a UFC guy and he does well in the UFC so he wouldn’t leave the UFC. But for me, I wasn’t doing as well as I’m doing now so why wouldn’t I leave? I did the right thing by me and by my family. That’s a smart business move.”
When he first asked for his release from the UFC, which then led to signing with Bellator, Anderson was still holding onto a lot of inner turmoil towards his former promotion.
Now that he’s on the cusp of becoming Bellator champion with his fight against Vadim Nemkov on Friday night, and the $1 million prize that comes along with a win, Anderson has finally started to look at the bigger picture when it comes to his career.
Thanks to the advice he got from Cormier along with his new found happiness in Bellator, Anderson has been able to put his past with the UFC behind him for good.
“It’s like a bad relationship,” Anderson said. “One of my teammates said it to me first, it’s like a bad ex-girlfriend. You’ve got a girlfriend you keep running back to, trying to prove yourself to and you’re trying to please her but then you meet a new girl and it changed everything. You’re happier with this girl and you’ve moved on and you don’t even think about that girl anymore. You don’t think about that past ex that used to drag you down and you lose sleep over because you found happiness somewhere else. That’s exactly what it was.
“I don’t even think about the UFC anymore. It wasn’t until after I lost to Jan Blachowicz and I ended up in the hospital and all this stuff, I looked at my wife and I told her I can’t do this anymore. I’m done with the fight game, this is the fight business. I was fighting because it was fun to fight but now I’m looking at it from a business aspect and everything makes so much more sense.”