Vaughn Anderson is a well-respected figure on the Asian MMA scene, but despite holding an outstanding 16-1-1 record, he remains relatively unknown in his native Canada. That could all change on Sept. 20 because the 35-year-old is taking on War Machine in the opening round of the Bellator Welterweight Tournament.
The careers of these two fighters could hardly be more contrasting. While War Machine has made more headlines for his exploits outside of the cage than his actual fights, Anderson has been quietly getting on with the business of beating almost every opponent he has ever faced in Asia.
Anderson’s career has seen him compete in Taiwan, China, Macau, Singapore, Australia and Abu Dhabi, but never on the mainland U.S. or in his native Canada, the closest he has come to fighting at home was a 2005 fight in Guam.
That will all change when he enters the Bellator 170-pound tournament later this year and while his list of previous opponents might be unfamiliar to an American audience, Anderson does not believe that he will necessarily be taking a step up in competition against War Machine.
“I love watching Bellator. It is a huge honor to fight in the welterweight tournament, but War will not be the best fighter I have faced by far. He does some things well, but not only am I a better fighter, I am well prepared to fight his kind of fight,” he said.
Anderson’s sole loss came in 2007 when he was submitted by Chinese legend Hailin Ao – who would go on to retire with a perfect 8-0 record – almost nine minutes into the opening round. The only other blemish on the 35-year-old’s record is a 2009 draw with Dong Hyun Kim, who, while not as famous as his UFC namesake, is still one of the top welterweights in Korea.
His most recent fight was in Australia last year when he beat Korean Hae Jun Yang by majority decision. Yang is also signed to Bellator. Anderson made headlines in 2011 when he stopped three much larger fighters in a single night to win the Pro FC heavyweight tournament in Taipei.
Anderson’s record is impressive, but he is perhaps better known in Asia for his work as a coach and a commentator. Although Canadian by nationality, he was born in Manila, spent the early years of his life there and originally came back just to revisit a few childhood memories.
“I came to Asia in 2001 thinking I would travel to the places I lived for a year when I was a kid, but then I never left. I’ve lived and trained in Taiwan, Beijing, Ubon Ratchatani, Hong Kong, Xian and had shorter stints in Bangkok, Boracay and Singapore,” he said.
Anderson is currently employed as the MMA coach at the Xian Sports University, which is home to some of the country’s top fighters, including 14-0 Tuerxun Jumabieke, who is rumored to have signed with the UFC; 10-0-1 Wang Guan, who won the RUFF featherweight title earlier this year; and 5-1 Meixuan Zhang who holds the RUFF 125-pound strap.
China is high on the UFC’s agenda at present and they could do a lot worse than talk to Anderson, who says the opportunity to coach at the biggest fight team in the country came about after a chance meeting in the country’s capital
“I was introduced to my boss for the first time when I fought in Art of War in Beijing. We stayed connected through the Chinese fight circuit and, through a friend, I let him know I was interested in the position. Mainland China is, in my opinion, the best place in the world for any athlete to live and the Xi’an fight team is the biggest and best in the country. I am happy here,” he said.
The fight with War Machine is taking place at Phoenix’s Grand Canyon University Arena, but Anderson will resist the temptation to relocate his training camp to the U.S. or Canada and instead intends to stay exactly where he is.
“I will stay in China for this fight camp. I am in X’ian now, there is a lot of training and sleeping and eating. We train three times a day, spar full-on and there are physiotherapists at the school that we keep busy,” he said.
Although Phoenix is a fair few miles from Canada, this is the closest that Anderson has come to a homecoming and after over a decade of training, coaching and competing in Asia, he is relishing the chance to make a name for himself in the West and also hopes to finally win some fans from his own country.
“Like any fighter, I have had my share of ups and downs, but it does feel good to come home in the best shape of my life and blood thirsty. I have one of the best records in history for fights on foreign soil and some Canadian love would be great, but I like earning my fans the hard way.”