EXCLUSIVE | Megan Anderson: Not like most girls

Megan Anderson

Growing up can be a very difficult task to be faced with. What may be easy to some can be tougher for others for various reasons. All experiences are different but similarities can and most likely will still exist. No one wants to get old, however, it happens to everyone, and as time goes on, us and the world around us changes. And dealing with the changes shapes us into who we are.

In a way, a combat sports enclosure creates a simulated environment that asks its participants the question, ‘who can out-survive who?’ Thus forcing the idea of adaptation into a requirement for all who participate. Because as time moves forward, everything else will have to as well.

Nowadays, it has become the norm for fighters, particularly in MMA, to discover their talents outside of the cage as well as inside of it. Whether it be in the commentary booth or at the analyst desk, options aren’t just limited to stepping in the cage anymore so why not get a head start if possible?

Having already tried her hand at some commentary and some analyst work as one half of her web series the Aussie and Fancy Breakdown, top women’s featherweight Megan Anderson now looks to keep expanding her range of skills as she takes over in her friend and co-host Laura Sanko’s reporter role for a night at Invicta FC 33 on December 15.

“I’m excited, I’m nervous,” Anderson told BJPenn.com. “I think what [Invicta FC founder] Shannon [Knapp] really likes about this is I understand where each of these women are at in their careers. Because I’ve seen every stage. I came from Invicta so I think I understand that. I’m a former champion, I can kind of relate to them on that level.”

PhotoCred: Invicta FC

For fans and spectators who watch essentially anything that is displayed on a screen, it can be incredibly easy to forget that the ones on the broadcast are also still humans. Meaning that the same types of struggles are gone through during upbringings as anyone else. In some cases though, it can be a little bit different.

Assuming it was shopping day if you were to take a stroll through your local grocery store, it’s a very safe bet that Megan Anderson would stand out and catch your eye as well as the eyes of several fellow shoppers.

Standing at 6-feet tall and fully inked from each knuckle to shoulder, the Australian’s presence is one that acts as a magnet for attention. Even prior to the self-acquired artwork on her arms, Anderson was and is just different from other girls.

Since the age of the internet has begun, social platforms have only become more and more pretentious whether it comes to material possessions or one’s physical being. The ability to be exposed to an assortment of new things and trends was taken to a whole new level as it just created a harder way to feel like you belong if you don’t fit in with what’s generally ‘acceptable’.

Society has always had its ideas of how people are or aren’t supposed to look, and growing up Anderson found it difficult to relate to the majority of the ‘Instagram models’ of the world. So when she found her inspiration watching the WWE, she was hooked.

“Beth Phoenix, she is legit one of my all-time favorites [when it comes to pro wrestlers]. Growing up, you know…I’m not like most girls. Physically I’m very different, I’m 6-feet tall,” Anderson explained. “So it was hard for me to really relate to the Trish Stratus’s or like, Lita. But Beth was like…she is legitimately an inspiration. Because the time that she went through the WWE, there was so much criticism on women and she did not look like your typical…bikini wearing, skimpy outfit wearing [diva]. She was a freaking beast. Physically she was an athlete. Muscular, she moved amazingly. So she was always someone that I looked up to.

“Like now, I love watching Ronda [Rousey], I think she’s changing stereotypes. I love Nia Jax. She is one of my favorites right now too. For me, anyone who looks different or is criticized for how they look, I am inspired by those people putting themselves out there. Because it is hard. It is extremely hard growing up being different.”

PhotoCred: IG – @megana_mma

Obstacles are made to get over and Anderson has absolutely done that to this point in her life and career. But despite now being a world class fighter in the biggest MMA organization on the planet, Anderson remains grounded and true to herself while still not quite feeling like she’s ‘made it’.

However, all the leaps and bounds can be made when progressing self-confidence, but even the best athletes still have their moments of questioning.

“I struggled for the longest time to accept me, who I am,” Anderson expressed. “And I still have days where I’m like, ‘Oh my god I look big,’ we’re always going to have those days but for me, seeing women in the WWE or anywhere that they’re criticized for the way they look but continually just put themselves out there and don’t give a sh*t, I’m just like f*cking yes. Kudos to you. You’re an inspiration. You are what’s going to help young women be okay with who they are. And it’s just about that message for me.”

On top of the doubts that the mind can create for one’s self by itself, athletes of all sports have much, much more to deal with and be subject to, especially when it comes to the fans in particular.

The physicality that comes with hand to hand combat alone is work enough, and critics will always be there. But with Megan Anderson, they’ve come in incredibly unnecessary fashion.

Because of the fact that a public figure is exactly that, a public figure, privacy can be hard to maintain. For some, it’s nearly impossible to come by. So when trying to keep things under wraps, it led to Anderson’s vilification by the ‘fans’ following her UFC 214 fight cancellation due to personal reasons.

“One thing that I struggled with that I’ve gotten over a lot was caring about what random people on the internet think about me,” Anderson said. “Like, these people will judge me for what I put up on social media, well what I put up on social media is what I want them to see. Just because I don’t want to post every single workout over every single thing that I’m doing doesn’t mean that I’m not doing anything. It doesn’t mean I’m not training harder than everyone else. That’s really taken me a long time to get there because I know, my coaches know, and my team knows that I’m training f*cking hard. And I’m putting in the work.

“That part of it definitely took me a long time to figure out…how to process that and not get upset about random comments and stuff. We’re all humans, there’s gonna be things like, ‘Megan’s scared because she’s tired,’ I don’t know, I’m tired because I’m training f*cking hard. Like, that’s what an athlete does.”

PhotoCred: Getty Images

Unfortunately for many athletes, the negativity involved with their professions often times will outweigh the positivity, at least on the surface level. But just because it may seem that way on the surface doesn’t mean that it is completely true as Anderson clarifies that well wishes of positivity are very prevalent as well. As one’s own worst critic, it can just be a lot easier to see the figurative missiles that are sent out for targetting.

Life comes in stages, and when going through that long and frustrating period, the Aussie was forced to grow and adapt or remain stuck avoiding being overwhelmed.

“Honestly, I think that the sh*t going through with Cris [Cyborg in regards to UFC 214] last year helped accelerate my ability to deal with all that kind of stuff,” Anderson stated. “Because I still to this day get stuff about that and whatever. It’s nobody’s business but mine and my teams. And just because you don’t know the reason doesn’t mean you know the reason. You’re either going to love me or hate me, there is no in between. I’m okay with that because I’m not going to change. I’m the same person. I like to pride myself on being authentic and real. If you don’t like what I say, that’s fine and if you do like what I say that’s also fine.”

As unique as she is as an individual in normal everyday life, the former Invicta champion finds that true within her MMA career as well by being one of the few members of the constantly mishandled UFC 145-pound featherweight division.

In MMA, for many of the fighters who discovered the sport at early ages, it was by watching the UFC or at least knowing about it. Therefore the goal likely ends up being to eventually get there if a career is pursued.

Well, that’s one goal down for Anderson but the future is uncertain and confusing when the division she’s apart of only homes three athletes and has done so since its creation in February 2017.

“To be honest, I’m waiting to see if they sign anyone,” Anderson said. “That’s kind of what I’ve been waiting for. Who are they gonna sign? Are they gonna sign anyone? What’s gonna happen? I don’t know. They’re either going to build [the division] or they’re not.

“One of the reasons they didn’t match me with someone from The Ultimate Fighter [season 28] is because they couldn’t find someone who is a suitable opponent. Like, you have a winner who is 3-0 as a pro. Macy [Chiasson] has potential but she has a lot of growing in the sport to do and if you’re going to sign her you’re going to sign her to a division with people that have had over 11 fights. What’re you supposed to do with that?”

PhotoCred: Getty Images

Like an individual has to, sports grow too. And now at 25 years old, the UFC has been doing so as an MMA promotion.

Early on, it was about as simple as it possibly could be. Which fighting style is superior to the other? Who is the best? These were the questions that everyone wanted the answers to. To this day, that is still the case…but not to the same effect.

Once a successful business is created, such as a four billion dollar company like the UFC, they want to keep building that buck up and over time, the way to do that has been by finding drama, entertainment, interesting personalities and whatever else can attract general viewership.

These are brand building qualities that fighters are beginning to need to have and something that Megan Anderson has recognized since she really started becoming a notable fighter in MMA. It’s also something that the rest of her division as a worldwide whole is arguably lacking.

“One of the reasons people don’t get signed is they’re not promotable,” Anderson said. “This is an entertainment business at the end of the day, so why would they sign someone that doesn’t even promote themselves? It’s not the UFC’s job to promote you above someone else. Why would they put time and effort into somebody that doesn’t even promote themselves over somebody who does?

“As an athlete, it’s just not about fighting anymore but your brand is equally as important. Like for example, if you want to get sponsors, a sponsor, what do they look at? Social media. If you don’t build your brand, why would they want to sponsor you? And that’s MMA aside. That’s just trying to get sponsors. People feel like they deserve to have sponsors and maybe they do but it’s not about deserving anymore. You gotta go out, you gotta promote yourself better. You gotta play the game!”

And play that game she has. Even with the unknown looming over, Anderson has persevered forward and focused on the present. Oh, well I mean, her hands have done some talking along the way.

PhotoCred: Bloody Elbow

Essentially fighting for her division as well as herself now, Megan Anderson is set to make her second UFC appearance on December 29 at UFC 232. When she does so, it will be against yet another opponent from the weight class below her own.

Instead of winning or losing, it can all be interpreted differently. A common perspective throughout the community being ‘win or learn’. The latter being what Anderson had to do after her promotional debut against Holly Holm in June.

Now set to face yet another experienced veteran in Cat Zingano, Anderson understands what kind of experience was gained from her last bout, but still has her reasons for focusing more on herself than the one standing in her way.

“Really, for us, it’s not about our opponent, it’s more about what we want to do and what we want to focus on and what we want to achieve,” Anderson stated when speaking of her and her team at Glory MMA & Fitness. “Like going into this fight, we aren’t really using past experience or anything like that. We’re just using things that we need to focus on and what we wanna do, really. We’re not really too focused on our opponents.

“We watch a bit of tape. You can watch as much tape as you want, but if you are so solely focused on your opponent and what they’re doing, it’s kind of like leaving yourself up waiting for them when it comes to in the fight. I think if you watch too much tape it can almost be a detriment because you don’t want to play their game you want to play your game. We want to implement our game plan.”

PhotoCred: Getty Images

One of the most beautiful things about the human species is how uniquely different each and every single one is from the next. Even though no two people are exactly the same in every possible aspect, similarities are still findable. It just doesn’t come that way for some as much as it does for others.

For Megan Anderson, she’s not ‘normal’. She admits it and that’s absolutely fine. Because whether someone likes it or they don’t, she’ll keep on doing her thing as she continues to strive towards her goals all while setting an example for what it means to truly be yourself.

This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 12/10/2018