In a recent conversation with UFC officials, Corey Anderson claims he was told he doesn’t “move the needle” for the promotion.
If Anderson (12-4, 9-4 UFC) isn’t expected to bring eyeballs to a fight card, it seems he’s been given a different role for UFC 244 — light heavyweight gatekeeper.
The UFC veteran will meet up-and-comer Johnny Walker in a 205-pound bout in the final preliminary bout Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Walker (17-3, 3-0) is the latest prospect to get a push up a light heavyweight division in need of some fresh blood at the top to challenge longtime on-and-off champion Jon Jones.
“They put me on there because they believe in me,” said Walker of his placement on one of the year’s biggest events. “They give me the shots, I want to show them what I can do.”
The Brazilian brings with him never-ending confidence, a stylish mohawk, slick dance moves on his walk to the octagon and, most importantly, first-round knockouts in each of his three UFC appearances (with none lasting longer than two minutes).
While Walker is feeling the UFC’s PR machine at work, Anderson, 30, believes the promotion is moving prospects such as Walker along too quickly and giving them platforms they’ve yet to earn in the cage.
"It's kind of like they push these guys so fast, instead of taking the time to pump the brakes and let them earn their way up,” Anderson said. “Fight these guys and learn. They come into the UFC with three or four fights, let them work their way up. They try to jump them up to get that new guy, to get that new money they can make. And I think it's going bad for them because when they lose, they're not the same after that loss, they don't come back the same."
Anderson, currently No. 7 in light heavyweight division, said he believes other top contenders were offered a fight with Walker but turned it down due to his ranking outside the top 10, making it harder for someone in Anderson's position to climb the rankings with a win.
“They gotta keep somebody's name hot in every division, to make money on. Somebody they can promote, somebody they can say when he makes it, 'we knew he was going to be the best,'” Anderson said. “I feel like they gave him to me so they can say if he beats me, he’s ready to go up. But if I beat him, it’s like, ‘OK, cool, Corey beat the hype train but he’s beaten top guys and now he’s beaten somebody ranked below,’ so I don’t think much is going to change.”
The 27-year-old Walker doesn’t have the UFC experience of Anderson, but he says his way of fighting will be too much for the veteran to handle.
“I'm a new generation of MMA, my style is a different style and new style,” Walker said. “Nobody can know what's going to happen because I don't have a simple jab, I have different jabs. It's not common style, it’s a very different style.”