Melvin Manhoef will look to do what he does best against Bellator debutant Corey Anderson tonight in the heavyweight headliner at Mohegan Sun - and go for the knockout. The veteran fighter from Holland is relishing the contest, and will look to headline in the first Bellator event in Amsterdam next year, post-COVID19, we may hope, and it may well his last walk to the cage...
“Yeah of course, for me it’s like a test [against Anderson]. I know I can do it. People don’t think so, but I think I can and so do my team. It’s a massive fight and I’m here to do what I do best - knock people out." he explained.
“I signed for two more fights. Because before they were going to do a show in Amsterdam in November. I wanted to do my farewell fight in Holland. I wanted one fight before so I could stay in shape. That’s why I signed for two more. But then the pandemic came and you see there was no show in Holland. I’m going to do this fight and win or lose I will do my last fight in Europe, I hope in Holland. That will be my farewell fight.”
Manhoef insists that the pressure is all on Anderson, who has moved over from the UFC. "For him, I think there will be a lot of pressure on him. I think he wants to show he’s still the same Corey Anderson after losing his last fight. But I’m not here for him.”
On Anderson's threats in the cage, Manhoef added: “He’s taller. He has a good wrestling game. He moves a lot. I don’t think in problems, I think in solutions. For every problem there is a solution. If he has problems, then I’ll focus on the solutions and do all I can to win.”
As for strategy, we all know Manhoef's game, and indeed, the one that Anderson employs. “I don’t know what he’s going to do, but it doesn’t matter what he’s going to do. I’m going to keep the fight standing. I’m going to try to do everything to win this fight. Everybody has pressure, Corey and I. But for Corey it’s more because he should beat me fairly easy.
"If I win it’s good, if I lost then people will say I’m old. It’s always like this and I feel good. When I win this fight and I get to be a title contender, of course I will do it. I’m really blessed. First it’s this fight and on Thursday we will know the answer. If the opportunity comes, then I will do it.”
“If he is ranked No.4 in the world, he is the best of the best. If I can fight him then I am also the best of the best. He’s top level. The other organisation underestimated him and he wants to prove he is legit. I think he is a tough contender for me. I think he’s one of the best guys I’ve faced in my career.”
Indeed, Anderson knows it too. “Melvin is just another fight to me. I can’t take anything away from him in terms of what he’s done and achieved in the sport. But that legendary factor doesn’t really register in my mind because he wasn’t a person I watched growing up.”
As for joining Bellator, from the UFC, Anderson added: “I feel free. I’ve talked to my wife and coaches about it. To me it feels like I’m starting all over again. It feels like my very first fight. There’s no pressure or extra burdens on your back. There’s no President talking trash about you. There’s no commentators saying negative things. Like they told me there, I don’t have to worry about making the needle move to get a title shot."
"I’m here to fight and I feel if I win I move forward. That’s why I got into this sport. I grew up watching Matt Hughes. Fighting and wrestling is similar. You win and you move forward. You beat the person in front of you and move forward, there’s nothing else to it. That’s what I thought I could do. It became about if I was selling tickets? Are you a fan favourite? How much money will you make us? Are people talking about you on social media? It took the love of the sport away from me. I wasn’t going to fight just to win but to win the fans over so I could get a big enough following so they would finally give me a title fight. Now finally I don’t have that baggage and that stress anymore. I just feel free. Like I can go back to being Corey Anderson. Get the win my way, get two cheques and go home.”
Anderson makes no bones about the move he has made. “I feel I signed with Bellator and a lot of the interviews were asking what I saw different with Bellator? I told them, it’s the same risk but a higher reward. The UFC don’t value you. When you ask for more money they shut it down. Bellator’s first offer was a big amount of money. It made me realise this company sees my worth. Why would I work for a company that doesn’t see that? A company who won’t pay me anything when I can go work for more money where the risk is the same. At the end of the day, at least I got paid for what I’m going instead of just being another number in a cock fight.”