‘I’m just here to throw leather’: Home hero Megan Anderson unfazed by pressure as she bids to kick-start career at UFC 243
Anderson, 29, takes on French UFC newcomer Zarah Fairn Dos Santos on the undercard of an event headlined by middleweight superstars Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya – and knows the fight could be make-or-break as she seeks to kick-start her career in MMA’s biggest promotion.
Gold Coast-born Anderson appeared to be a UFC superstar-in-the-making when she joined the promotion as a former Invicta Featherweight champion, although things have not progressed entirely to plan since then.
First, she was forced to withdraw from her bow against women’s icon Cris Cyborg at UFC 214 in 2017 for the vacant women’s featherweight title, citing personal reasons.
When Anderson did make her debut against Holly Holm at UFC 225 in June 2018, it ended in a one-sided decision defeat as her ground game was badly exposed.
Victory over Cat Zingano followed in a bout that ended in bizarre fashion when Zingano suffered a cut to her eye from Anderson’s toenail, although Anderson slipped to a loss in her last outing when she was submitted by Felicia Spencer in May.
That has left her with a 9-4 overall record but precariously placed at 1-2 in the UFC – and the 6ft Anderson knows that this weekend on home soil would be the perfect stage to give her the push she needs in the promotion.
“I’m very excited to just sit down in the middle of the cage, bite down on my mouthguard and just throw. I’ve wanted one of those fights for a long time,” Anderson told ESPN ahead of the fight.
The card will be headlined by the men’s middleweight title fight between local favorites Robert Whittaker – born in New Zealand but fighting out of Australia – and Nigerian-born Kiwi striking sensation Israel Adesanya.
The crowd at the Marvel Stadium could break the all-time UFC record of 56,214, set at the same venue back in 2015 for UFC 193 – and Anderson is relishing the prospect or fighting at home for the first time in five years.
“It’s going to be the biggest fight in Australian and New Zealand [MMA] history…I’m glad I can participate in this moment, and represent women in this sport,” Anderson said.
“I’m trying not to get too emotional because it’s a really big deal for me, it’s always been one of my goals to fight in Australia in the UFC.”
While Anderson is aiming to build up her UFC record, she already has a social media following that would be the envy of many fighters in the sport.
The Aussie keeps her fans updated with training videos, but ahead of her fight against Dos Santos she also took the step into lingerie modelling, revealing that it had been a nerve-racking experience for her.
“I was a little nervous, but I’m so glad (photographer Bo Flores) pushed me out of my comfort zone,” wrote the heavily-tattooed fighter when sharing the pictures back in August.
“Yah, I might be half naked but who the f*ck cares, I do what I want.
“I’m proud of my body and what its capable of. I love that I have artwork inked on my skin symbolising who I am and what I believe in.
“Be confident in whatever you do and be kind to yourself.”
She will be putting her body on the line against 32-year-old Dos Santos on Saturday – a fighter who has a 6-2 record, but who will be taking her first octagon steps.
Anderson highlighted the Frenchwoman’s jab as a potential threat, but told ESPN that we would see an upgraded version of herself come Sunday in Melbourne.
“This sport is very result-driven, but this camp was about doing what’s best for me as an athlete,” Anderson said.
“We changed a lot of things, we changed my nutrition, we changed my strength and conditioning, and I think we finally found a system that works so good for me.
“I’ve seen amazing results in my confidence, my mental game, my MMA game in the last 13 weeks and I’m so excited to showcase that.”
And despite the added expectations that will come from fighting at such a huge event on home territory, Anderson said she will tune out the background noise as she makes her way to the octagon.
“It’s business, it’s all business. I know I’m one and two in the UFC. I’m just here to work, put my head down and throw leather,” she said.
If Anderson does that successfully, Sunday in Melbourne might just be the launchpad for a fresh assault on the UFC women's featherweight ranks.