A little guy from a little town in Idaho, ultimate fighter Lee Anderson thrives on his image as an underdog. But that's not what he is. Instead, Anderson is 135 pounds of human fighting machine.
In his first comeback fight in Boise earlier this month, Anderson trounced his opponent in less than three minutes. Now, the Wood River Valley native is poised for the Boise-based Extreme Fight Series lightweight championship on Dec. 3.
After that, Anderson has his sights set on a world championship.
Soft spoken, of less than average height, a doting father, Anderson hardly seems the persona of an ultimate fighter. But eyes of steel and a quiet confidence let you know that this is not a guy you want to get into it with. He's the type of fighter than can likely kick your butt with determination alone.
But determination is only part of the story. At 35, Anderson is an experienced fighter, having matched his skills against other tough guys for the past 12 years on both the amateur and professional circuits. He's a meticulous technician, an arduous trainer, and one is tempted to say -- fearless. But that's not quite true.
"Sure, you're always afraid," Anderson said. "Anyone who says they're not is probably lying to you. It's how you channel your fear -- I try to channel my fear into excitement at having this opportunity in a sport where you create your own destiny."
Anderson's sport of choice, ultimate fighting, is not for the weak of heart. In some venues, fights take place in a cage. The bout is over when one fighter is either knocked senseless or says uncle. Sometimes a referee has to stop the match when it is obvious that a defeated, but stubborn fighter could get seriously injured if the fight continued.
That's how Anderson won his first comeback fight in Boise on July 15 at the Extreme Fight Series "First Strike." event. (Anderson took a year off from fighting when wear and tear on his knees forced him to have surgery on both of them.) Featured as one of the premier fighters for the event, Anderson was matched against Jason Shifflet of Salt Lake City. Two minutes and 28 seconds into the match, the referee decided that Shifflet had had enough.
"My strategy is that I want to get in as close and as soon as possible, and get out of the fight without getting hurt myself," Anderson said. "My strategy is my focus, and that's my best strength for sure.
In the cage, Anderson uses his focus to deliver rapid stunning punches, an occasional kick to the head or midsection, and wrestling takedown moves to subdue his opponent. Quick reflexes usually keep hin out of reach of an opponent's kicks and jabs.
"You have to be a very well rounded fighter to compete in this event, because you could be standing on your feet or fighting on the ground."
Anderson has developed expertise in several fighting techniques. He wrestled when in high school, trained in martial arts as a boy and started kick boxing competitively at the age of 12.
Weighing in at 135 pounds, Anderson often gives up 25 pounds to an opponent, since lightweight fighters can weigh up to 160. But that doesn't bother him at all.
"It's not a problem, because I put a lot of emphasis on technique rather than strength. I always go into a fight with a mindset that I want to be smart," he said.
"I think a lot of opponents take me lightly because I'm so small. They think they can overpower me," he said.
Anderson said the roar of the crowd at the Boise event helped propel him to victory. Some 6,500 attended the event, the largest crowd ever at a downtown Boise sporting event.
"There were a lot of people from the area here, and in the valley, who bought tickets and supported me, and I'd like to thank them for that," he said.
Anderson's next bout is set for Dec. 3 in Boise when he gets a shot at the Extreme Fight Series lightweight championship. Since the championship spot is now open, his opponent hasn't been officially named, but Anderson said it will likely be number one contender Brandon "Big Dog" Shuey out of Boise.
Anderson said the "Big Dog" has been avoiding him for two years, but it's looking like the fight will finally happen.
"He's the number one guy out there in my division," Anderson said. "It's going to be a great fight -- it's the fight that needs to happen."
And Anderson is confident he's going to win.
"Most definitely -- I know that I've done my work. I'm in great shape. I'm confident that if I'm standing up, or on the ground, or in any position I can prevail," he said.
In addition to being a skilled and successful fighter, Anderson is also a grateful fighter, quick to thank those who have helped him in his career.
Carl Skallauos, his trainer and corner man, "is the guy that keeps me focused, and I couldn't do it without him," Anderson said.
He's also appreciative of Extreme Fight Series promoter Kasey Thompson for giving him the opportunity to fight.
But most of all, Anderson is appreciative of his kids, 11-year-old Storm and 7-year-old Amelia.
"They're my biggest supporters," he said. "If they were to tell dad 'you should hang it up,' I'd probably consider it."
But for now, that's not what the kids are telling dad. After his fight against "Big Dog" Shuey, Anderson plans to pursue his goal of a world championship at either the Ultimate Fighting event in the U.S. or at Pride in Japan, the two most prestigious ultimate fighting venues on the planet.