Canadian bantamweight Chad Anheliger was the biggest underdog on the Week 2 card for Dana White’s Contender Series last Tuesday when he battled his way to a hard-fought split decision victory over Tajikistan’s Muin Gafurov.
Then he had to sit and wait through four other fights, three of which ended via stoppage, to see if he would be rewarded with a UFC contract.
“The confidence percentage was going down and down as those guys went out and got finishes,” Anheliger told TSN. “I was pretty confident right after the fight was over, because I knew I poured it all on the line and that’s important to Dana. I’m not leaving anything in the cage, I fought as hard as I can fight that guy. I was pretty confident in my performance, but those other guys put pressure on me for sure and I was so relieved to hear that I got it.”
And get it he did. Anheliger became the second Canadian fighter to earn a contract on the Contender Series, joining T.J. Laramie, who was added to the UFC roster after a victory on the show last season.
Overcoming the odds is nothing new to the 34-year-old. Tuesday’s victory was his ninth win in a row after starting his MMA career with a 2-5 record.
Anheliger has not lost a professional fight since 2014 as he went from a three-fight losing streak to earning a place in the biggest promotion in the world.
“I put myself in a position where I couldn’t lose, it just was not an option anymore,” said Anheliger. “I had to take every fight so incredibly serious and I had to train so hard.  Every fight I trained for like it was the most important fight ever because it was, I could not lose one more time and I knew that. I put a lot of pressure on myself and in those fights and it made me get better out of necessity.”
Looking at the bantamweight division that he now finds himself in, the Calgary fighter is very impressed by the upper-echelon guys in the weight class, but believes there is a lot of room for him to earn victories and move up the ranks at 135 pounds.
“I’m loving the top of the division right now, those guys are so exciting and so awesome to watch, (Petr) Yan and (Aljamain) Sterling and Merab (Dvalishvili), (Jose) Aldo killing it out there,” said Anheliger. “The top of the division is so highly skilled, it brings a lot of attention to our weight class and I love every minute of watching those guys.”
“As far as myself and where I stack up and who I stack up with out there, I think there’s a bit of a division within the division. The top half is very heavy, very talented, but the bottom half is just low hanging fruit for me. I feel like I’ve already fought tougher guys than a lot of those guys, so I’m not afraid of any of them.”
After going three rounds at the UFC Apex on Tuesday and coming out relatively unscathed,  Anheliger does not want to waste a lot of time before getting back into the cage for his promotional debut.
“I’d like to get in there sooner than later, I have a few little things to heal up on my body, but they’re all really minor stuff,” said Anheliger. “Just a regular day of MMA does pretty much the same damage, so I’ll take a little bit of a break, but I’m ready to go. I feel like I’ve got lots of great, potential matchups, I don’t cut a lot of weight so I just stay in shape and I’m just looking for opportunities. I have a habit of making the most of opportunities, so I just want as many as I can get.”