“I know I’m the champ,” Anderson said after his accidental head-butt led to the inconclusive result on Saturday. “I don’t care what the casuals say, I don’t care what the media says. We saw the accidental head-butt, but you guys saw what happened. First round, yeah, it was a lot closer, but the second and third, you can’t tell me there was no way he was going to score that. I am the champ.”
Anderson thought he had won the fight, which marked the finals of the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix. Not only was a belt coming his way, but a $1 million paycheck offered the winner. Instead, his jubilation turned to anger.
“I mean, I’m over it now – I’m not over-over it – but a coach of mine told me in college, ‘You’ve got five minutes to sulk,’” he said at the post-fight press conference. “I had those five minutes, I jumped in the shower, and there’s nothing I can do about it now.”
Still, Anderson can’t help but wonder what might have been after a drastic shift in momentum that saw him dominate Nemkov in wrestling after a competitive fight in the first two rounds.
“It’s very upsetting, especially because I broke him,” Anderson said. “You can’t say I wasn’t winning the fight and the clash happened. I went out there and did exactly what I said I was going to do. I was going to go out there and dominate. He can’t handle my wrestling and the ground and pound. I was pacing myself, and I knew in the fourth round, it was going to be over.
“But there’s a good sport in me; I saved him myself. I felt our heads hit, and the ref was like, ‘Keep going, keep going.’ And I said I head-butted him. That’s why they stopped it. So if I wouldn’t have said nothing, the three seconds would be over and I would be the champ. But the good sport in me, it is what it is.
“The coach was like, ‘Open up,’ so I was going to try and finish by blowing his lungs as much as I can in the third, to where in the fourth he would just come out and quit, he would just a fall down. So things happen. I got a little over-aggressive, I guess you could say, or just a freak-of-nature accident. It’s the fight game. Things happen.”
After the fight, Anderson regained his composure, though he said he was angered when a Nemkov corner discounted his work due to the accidental foul. He would like to return as soon as possible to the Bellator cage to get his win and be done with the light heavyweight tournament. At this point, however, he’s worried whether the champ will give him that opportunity.
“We’re in the medical tent next to each other, and the one cut, [Nemkov] got to get plastic surgery for that, and the other, I guess I crushed his orbital, so he’s going to be out for a while on that, as well.
“I’m pretty sure he’s going to try to push the fight back as long as he can, maybe even until 2023, which I hope not. But as soon as possible I would like to get it over with, so I can move on, win this money, and go on living my life with my family.”
Bellator President Scott Coker estimated the rematch would happen well before the end of the year, though he didn’t confirm a timeline. He declined comment on Nemkov’s injury status.