Former University of Alabama football player Eryk Anders was introduced to MMA by Walt Harris

Over the past couple of years, we have seen former football players make the transition into mixed martial arts and one of the latest to make this transition is former University of Alabama linebacker Eryk Anders.

Photo via Ander's Facebook
Photo via Ander’s Facebook

Anders was a member of the 2009 National Championship team at Alabama as he ranked fourth on the team in team in tackles and second in sacks that year.

Following his senior season at Alabama, he was signed by the Cleveland Browns and also had stints in the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football league. With no offers coming from any NFL teams, current UFC heavyweight Walt Harris was the person that introduced Anders to mixed martial arts and he instantly fell in love with the sport.

“I was with the Cleveland Browns out of college for a hot minute,” Anders told The MMA Report. “Got cut. Went to Canada. Got cut and played a year of arena ball. Basically, I just felt if it was not the NFL, I did not want to play. I felt like I was capable of playing at the highest caliber players and when it did not pan out, I just wanted to find something else to do. I ran into a buddy of mine, Walt Harris, who is a UFC vet. He said if you are looking for something to do and you need to scratch that competitive itch, come out to the gym and give MMA a shot. I went down there and literally got beat up. I got beat up in a controlled environment and I fell in love with it right then and there.”

Anytime you talk to a fighter that has made the transition from football to mixed martial arts, they will discuss the lessons they learned from the football field and how they use they lessons in fighting. One of the major lessons Anders has taken from football to mixed martial arts is something University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban would always tell his team every year.

“You have to embrace that grind,” Anders said. “Great athletes are not made overnight, it’s a process. Coach Saban always made the analogy that the season is a marathon and not a sprint. A lot of teams get off to a fast start early in the season, start off 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 and they get laxed. They do not finish the race. That is not how this is. I feel like some guys experience success early in their careers and they get lackadaisical in their training. They end up taking a couple of losses. My career is a marathon and not just a two or three year sprint.”

Anders is currently fighting as an amateur and has a record of 16-3-1. Coming up next week, he will have his 21st amateur fight as he faces Justin Wyatt and some may wonder why he has not turned pro yet. Part of the reason he has not turned pro is due to a recent injury that kept him on the sidelines.

“I am kind of supposed to be maybe two or three fights into my professional career but about six or seven months ago, I tore my achilles. That set me on the bench and before that, I made the transition into a new gym and I just did realized how much I did not know about MMA and fighting. When I made the transition a year to year and a half ago, I just realize how far behind the eight ball I was. My coach, Chris Conley at Spartan Fitness, he has taught me so much more than I would ever know. Every time, it came to a consensus that it was better to be over prepared for a professional career. Once you turn pro, you can not turn back. There is no, I did not know or I was not prepared. I feel like when I turn pro, I will be more than ready and we are going to take the MMA world by storm.”