Former Alabama football player Eryk Anders wins pro MMA debut


Former Alabama linebacker Eryk Anders made his pro debut in mixed martial arts on Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Raven Lewis

Marquis Munson

After a successful amateur career, former Alabama football player Eryk Anders made his pro debut in mixed martial arts with a TKO victory 40 seconds into the first round against Joshua Raspberry at the Belk Activity Center in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night.

The former linebacker came out to a strong reaction from the crowd and was accompanied by his Spartan Fitness teammates and the WBC heavyweight champion and Tuscaloosa native Deontay Wilder. They watched as Anders dominated his opponent in 40 seconds, who also made his pro debut and took the bout on short notice.

“I just went in there with a clear head,” Anders said. “I just fight the person that’s across that cage; it doesn’t matter the name, style or experience.”

From 2006 to 2009, Anders was a linebacker on the Crimson Tide football team. He finished his career with 98 total tackles and 8.5 sacks. His biggest play was in the BCS National Championship game on Jan. 7, 2010, when he sacked Texas backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert, causing a fumble that led to a game-winning touchdown run by Mark Ingram.

Years after trying to gain tackles and sacks in the National and Canadian Football League, Anders took up striking and grappling in mixed martial arts and hasn’t looked back since.

“We worked a lot on his standup and footwork,” said Spartan Fitness head trainer Chris Conolley. “His grappling was already strong, his wrestling was strong, and so he just needed to put it all together.”

After getting his pro debut fight out the way, a confident Anders looks to continue to build on his success 
in MMA.

“Confidence is never an issue with me,” Anders said. “I’m just getting more comfortable in there and moving around a little bit better, and I’m just getting better every day.”

Chase Horton and Justin Reeser of Tuscaloosa also won in their pro debut. Horton defeated Ken Dubose by TKO in the second round while Reeser won by disqualification after his opponent, Kerry Heard, 
headbutted him in the first round.

Former Samford football player and Anders’ Spartan Fitness teammate, Omar Johnson, defeated Tuscaloosa native Brad Thompson by TKO in the first round. Johnson is now 4-0 in Tuscaloosa.