SAN JOSE, Calif. – A clearly frustrated Corey Anderson said he won’t stop until he’s officially Bellator’s light heavyweight champion – with a belt, not just a fight he was cruising in that won’t be on the record books.
In the Bellator 277 co-main event, Anderson (16-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) challenged 205-pound champion Vadim Nemkov (15-2 MMA, 7-0 BMMA) for the title in a bout that doubled as the grand prix final – and would have come with an extra $1 million paycheck on top of Anderson’s $250,000 flat purse for the fight.
But late in the third round, Anderson, after dominating the champion on the ground for the better part of 10 minutes, inadvertently clashed heads with Nemkov. He knew it right away and signaled to referee Frank Trigg what had happened.
Trigg stopped the action with three seconds left in the round because of the clash – and a deep cut that opened above Nemkov’s left eye. A cageside doctor said the cut was too deep for him to continue – and because the five-round title fight hadn’t made it to the fourth round, it had to be ruled a no contest.
That meant no light heavyweight title for Anderson, presuming things would have continued to go his way. And it meant no $1 million extra check.
“I’m over it now. I’m not over it-over it. But a coach of mine told me in college you have five minutes to sulk. I had those five minutes. I jumped in the shower. There’s nothing we can do about it now,” Anderson said at the post-fight news conference at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. “It’s very upsetting, especially because I broke him, you know? You can’t say I wasn’t winning the fight and the clash (of heads) happened. It is what it is. I went out there and did exactly what I was supposed to do, like I said I was going to do. I said I was going to go out there and dominate – he can’t handle my wrestling, my ground-and-pound. I was pacing myself and I knew the fourth round, it was going to be over.”
Anderson acknowledged that if he just would have kept going, there’s a chance the head butt would have either gone unnoticed because it happened during other ground-and-pound, or if the third round just was completed and went to the fourth, the judges would’ve been allowed to score the fight.
Instead, he said it was his own sportsmanship that may have cost him.
“There’s a good sport in me. I saved him myself, you know?” Anderson said. “I felt the heads hit and the ref was like, ‘Keep going, keep going.’ And I said, ‘I head-butted him.’ And that’s why they stopped it. So if I wouldn’t have said nothing, that three seconds would’ve been over and I would’ve been the champ. But the good sport in me … it is what it is.”
Anderson said there’s no next option for him other than a rematch with Nemkov for the title. And Bellator president Scott Coker said after the fight that the promotion would rebook the bout as soon as both fighters could go – likely in the summer.
Coker also said the $1 million still will be up for grabs since right now, the light heavyweight grand prix doesn’t have a winner because of the no contest.
But Anderson isn’t sure about a timeline for a rematch coming that quickly.
“I’d like to go as soon as possible, but we were in the medical tent next to each other and the one cut, he’s got to get plastic surgery for that. And other than the cut, I guess I crushed his orbital, so he’s going to be out for a while on that, as well,” Anderson said. “I’m pretty sure he’s going to try to push the fight back as long as he can, maybe even to 2023 – I hope not. As soon as possible, I’d like to get it over with so I can move on, get this money and go back to living my life for my family and not in training camp for a year straight like I have been.”
The only win Anderson can take from Friday is that even though he was a betting underdog, he really didn’t seem to have many problems with the champ.
Moral victories won’t get him the $1 million or the title, so he’ll have to repeat that performance when they run it back. But it doesn’t seem like that’s something he thinks he’ll have an issue with.
“I know I’m the champ,” Anderson said. “You guys can’t say anything else. I don’t care what the casuals say, I don’t care what the media (members) say. We saw the accidental head butt, but you guys saw the 15 minutes. You saw what happened. First round, yeah, it was a lot closer. But the second and third, you can’t tell me – no way (a judge) was going to score that for him. I am the champ.
“I’ve been saying it for years, so what do you mean? It ain’t going to change my mind. My mind don’t change: I am the best. I’ve said it, I believe it and I know it. Now I really know it. I just went out there and dominated. I didn’t just beat him – I broke him, the guy they said was untouchable, on an untouchable run. Nobody’s ever touched him since he got into the Bellator cage. Can he go out there and make it nine or 10 or however many it was? The answer is no.”
Check out Anderson’s full post-fight interview in the video above.