The transition from local fighter to globally recognized superstar doesn’t exactly happen overnight. For some professional fighters, it doesn’t happen at all. There was a time when Dylan Andrews could stand in the crowd at a mixed martial arts show with a beer in his hand and watch as his peers entered the cage to put on a show in a venue full of fans that were eagerly awaiting their fix of mixed martial arts action.

Those days are now long gone.

“It’s always good to go into shows and catch up with people,” Andrews admitted in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “There are always new fans at the shows, and it’s good to socialize with other fighters and fans and everything. It’s just gone so quickly. One year ago, I was there [at Nitro MMA], just a part of the crowd, and then the next year I’m a special guest. I am thankful for everything, and I’m just enjoying the moment.”

After coming out of his UFC 164 win against Papy Abedi carrying an injury, one would think that the last thing on Andrews’ mind was when he was going to return to the cage. With the knowledge that the UFC was returning to Australia, though, he had to work through the pain for a return to the Octagon.

“My body had been aching after the fight,” Andrews explained. “I’ve just been really grinding away and I didn’t have much time off between camps. That’s the way it goes, though. You can’t have too much time off, and you just have to keep on getting in there and working hard.”

Andrews’ next bout inside the Octagon is set for Dec. 7 at UFC Fight Night 33, where he steps into the cage across from The Ultimate Fighter 17 alum and teammate Clint Hester. After two successful outings in his post-TUF career, Andrews was expected to draw another fighter who hadn’t made their break through the reality series. For Andrews, it doesn’t matter who he is facing, for he treats each opponent as seriously as his last.

“I worked really hard to get here and I know I have to work even harder to stay,” he admitted. “I’ve just been training hard. I just focus on the things that I can control, which is how much time and effort I put into this. Who I fight is up to the UFC, and I’ll always fight whoever they put in front of me.

“We know each other pretty well. We have seen each other fight and we spent six weeks living and training together. I can’t imagine he’ll be too different to what he was in the house, so I think I’ll be able to beat him. Clint is a couple of wins away from breaking into the top 10 and I want that spot.”

Based at Gold Coast, Queensland, Andrews has a short trip to Brisbane for the event on Dec. 7. It’s the closest experience that the New Zealand native will get to a hometown fight in the foreseeable future.

“It’s pretty much a hometown fight,” Andrews said. “And there are going to be so many people coming over from New Zealand to see me fight. I need to go out there and put on a show, and I know that I am going to be able to feed off all that energy from the crowd.”

A growing trend for fighters that supporters are beginning to get behind is the idea of donning a “battlebeard” in preparation for a fight. There are a lot of theories as to why a beard can help a fighter when they are inside the cage. Most importantly, it’s perceived as a sign of toughness amongst some fans. For his previous fights inside the Octagon, Andrews had his own “battlebeard” that he wore with pride. This time around, however, he comes into the bout clean shaven. However, believe it or not, he’s still the same fighter.

“I don’t like to get locked into superstition,” Andrews explained. “You know, the beard doesn’t win the fight for me. The beard doesn’t make me train any harder. It’s just there. There’s so many people asking me about it, like getting upset on social media and that because I got rid of it [laughs]. I don’t wanna be fighting like three, four or five years from now with some giant-ass beard. I’m not winning because of that. I’m winning because of the work I’m putting in.”

In Brisbane on Dec. 7, there is no chance that Andrews is going to be able to get lost in the crowd. The days of him being able to go by unnoticed are well and truly gone.

Dylan would like to thank his sponsors: Advanced Fight Gear, Nutrition Warehouse, Notorious Cuts, Big Red Concrete Cutting and Tapout Energy Drinks. He would also like to thank his family for their continued support. Follow Andrews on Twitter: @dylanthevillian

Photo: Dylan Andrews (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.