Way back in January 2010, Alabama’s Nick Saban dynasty was not yet a dynasty. The Tide had played for the SEC championship the season prior and won it the previous month, but Alabama had not yet won a national championship — and their first seemed to be slipping away.
After Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was knocked out of the game in the first quarter, Alabama jumped to a 24-6 halftime lead and then coasted through the second half. Behind freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert, the Longhorns climbed back in the game with a legitimate chance to complete the 18-point comeback, pulling within 24-21 and owning the ball with more than three minutes remaining.
But Alabama linebacker Eryk Anders ended all that. He sacked Gilbert and forced a fumble, which Alabama recovered and then cashed in for a touchdown three plays later, putting the capper on a 37-21 win.
That sack earned him a spot in Alabama lore. “You’d think this play just happened yesterday,” Anders he told AL.com in 2011. “Everywhere I go people recognize me.”
Anders never caught on in the NFL, but he said back then that a desk job wasn’t for him. So he’s tried his hand at a different professional sport — mixed martial arts — and he’s thriving.
The San Antonio native holds a 10-0 record as a UFC fighter and tonight will participate in a main event fight in Belem, Brazil, squaring off against Lyoto Machida, who is 22-8 as a pro.
The UFC Fight Night card (10 p.m. ET, FS1) is the biggest bout of Anders’s young career. With a win, he will continue to climb the ranks of pro fighters. But a loss will slink the 30-year-old further down the food chain.
“It’s not surreal being in this situation,” Anders told ESPN. “I’ve never once thought a fight was happening too early in my career. Every fight is an opportunity to move up the food chain, so to speak. It’s not like, ‘Oh my God, I’m fighting Lyoto Machida.'”