Corey Anderson isn’t a man who gets lost in regret.
This past Friday at Bellator 277, Anderson went from jubilation to disappointment in a matter of seconds after his fight with Vadim Nemkov was declared a no-contest following an accidental clash of heads at the end of the third round. If Nemkov had been able to start the fourth round prior to the stoppage, the scorecards would have been added up, and Anderson would have been declared the winner. Unfortunately, because there were still three seconds remaining in the third round and the ringside physician would not allow Nemkov to continue, he left the cage without a win, without the Bellator light heavyweight title and without the $1 million prize awarded to the winner of the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix.
A few days removed from an emotional night, Anderson isn’t upset that he showed good sportsmanship by alerting the referee to the clash of heads, and he can’t say that winning via technicality would feel much better either.
“I don’t know if I’d be happy if I had the belt, if those three seconds went off,” Anderson told The Fighter vs. The Writer. “Even though I was dominating, we all saw the way the fight was going, people are always going to say, ‘You didn’t finish him, there’s two rounds left, you never really finished the fight.’ I would have been happy at least to be the champ and they could make the rematch still. They probably would have made the rematch either way because of the way it ended, but I don’t know how I feel to be honest. Cause I don’t have the belt, and I don’t have the million in the safe.
“But I’ve thinking about it. If I had the belt, if those three seconds would have ended it and the fight was over, I’m confident I was going to just to do the same thing the next two rounds if it even went that far. But at the same time, I would love to have that clarity that shows without the head-butt or not, I went out there and dominated.”
Following a close first round, Anderson took over with his wrestling and ground game, scoring multiple takedowns that kept Nemkov planted on the canvas. He also clipped Nemkov with a hard combination on the feet in the third round that appeared to briefly rattle the Russian.
Despite the way the fight ended, Anderson believes his performance backed up exactly what he’s been stating about his place in the sport – even prior to Friday night.
“I am the best in the world, not just in Bellator, but the best,” Anderson said. “I went out there and showed it. I truly felt it and believed it, and now I really, really truly believe it. I expected that fight to be a tough one, but let’s be honest. I’m not going to say it was an easy fight, but at the same time, I made it look like I was the best.
“I made it look like I was the champion. I went out there and fought and did everything I was supposed to do. Like I said, if you go out there and you’re still knocking me now, you’re just a hater.”
Anderson has been nothing but dominant since signing with Bellator after he requested and received his release from the UFC back in 2020.
His exit came after Anderson felt neglected and underappreciated by the promotion, which led to him being at odds with the UFC during the biggest part of his final year there.
Looking back now, Anderson knows he made the best choice for his career by joining Bellator but he still had thoughts of the UFC after his performance against Nemkov.
“In my head, I was like, ‘I wonder how Dana White feels now?’” Anderson said. “I wonder if he saw that fight. I wonder how he feels. Granted, he might not have seen it, but I just wondered does he regret letting me go? Does he regret they didn’t put that energy into promoting me like they did these other guys, now that they can see what I can do with a little love behind me, to feel like I actually belong somewhere. Like they actually want me.
“I don’t miss the UFC, but I wonder if they ever look back and wonder. I wonder what if we actually put that promotion behind Corey, what could have happened? Now they see, the world sees, Corey is the best. You can’t knock it. You can’t say nothing about it.”
Anderson has moved past whatever animosity he once felt toward the UFC, but that doesn’t change the fact that the organization essentially saw him as expendable when he asked for a release from his contract.
“You could have had a kid that started his career there and literally finished his career, and if you put the right time in him, who knows what could happen if they show love,” Anderson said about the UFC. “The fact that I spent all my time there fighting with them, I feel like I left at the right time. I was at a crossroads of my career right before my opportunity to fight for a title. I lost, but I hadn’t peaked yet. I hadn’t even hit my prime yet.
“It’s kind of like they let me go right in the transition stage where when I came back, I might have got a little second wind and they’re like, ‘Oh this kid is a lot better than we thought he was,’ and they would have saw something in me. But we’ll never know cause now we’re gone.”
Of course, Anderson knows that because he didn’t get a definitive ending to the fight with Nemkov that he’ll still deal with criticism about where he ranks among the best light heavyweights in the sport, but that’s nothing new to him. Even with a lopsided win on his resume over current UFC champion Glover Teixeira, along with a dominant run in Bellator thus far, Anderson has just come to accept that some people will never give him the credit he’s due.
“Anybody that’s doubting my skill now is just a hater of Corey Anderson,” he said. “It’s not like they see any performance or anything I did wrong. They just don’t like Corey Anderson. No matter what they do, they’re going to keep knocking me no matter what I do. At this point, I stopped doing it for the people a while ago. I do it to prove to myself and show what I know.
“It’s just because they don’t want to see my shine, and that’s all right. That’s OK. Just say that. You don’t have to go out there and knock my skills. Just say you don’t like me. I’ll take that over anything. That’s fine. We need haters. I need haters in this world, but don’t sit there and knock my performance just cause you don’t like me, trying to get other people to believe your funk. Without a doubt, 100 percent, I know it. I believe it but now there’s no question.”