The combat sports narrative of a rising prospect’s rough-and-tumble beginnings on one mean street or another is a story commonly told, but seldom is the tale as simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming in its early stages as it was in the case of Anderson Hutchinson.
Hutchinson recorded his first memories within the walls of an orphanage in Parana, Brazil. Abandoned as an infant, he spent his first seven and a half years on earth with a tenuous sense of belonging. That was until one day, when a man named William Hutchinson visited and adopted him, taking him back to his home in the United States. Shortly after, he became a brother when his adoptive father took in another ward of the state, Michael, who is four years Anderson’s junior, and the three of them made their home in Washington, PA, where Anderson poured his energy into his earliest athletic passion: soccer.
Rising prospect Anderson Hutchinson on fighting: “I have no plan B”
At 20, he discovered jiu-jitsu, another major form of competition associated with his birth country. But as many young adults are prone to, he also began taking risks with his future. He started getting into trouble. The family moved to Daytona Beach, FL and, like all things that are internally perpetuated, the trouble followed him southward. His aspirations in soccer weren’t panning out and, arguably worse, he was expelled from college at 22 after being arrested for underage drinking and driving under the influence. He was in a tailspin and things finally came to a head one day with his father and brother that resulted in him finding himself once again without a place to call home.
“That was a dark stage in my life—or even more dark, because I was already pretty bummed out as it was,” he recalls. “I was angry. I was depressed. I was confused. I was distressed with a lot of things going on in my life. I was always mad I hadn’t gone anywhere with soccer—I was a really good soccer player—and I hadn’t excelled academically. For the longest time I thought I was going to be playing sports forever. You know, you’re an adopted kid from an orphanage who comes to the United States. There’s a different culture, a different language… a different everything. You’re given this opportunity. I felt like I was the richest man alive, even though I was just middle class, because I’d come from an orphanage, having nothing, and had ended up here.
“But when you grow older, you get more responsibility, life hits you and things become a little more serious. You’ve got to get a job, go to college and all of that. I tried college and messed that up. I got kicked out, basically There were a lot of things that I didn’t like about myself. I’d screwed up and I kind of felt sorry for myself and that, being stressed and overweight—I was about 200 pounds—things got heated and exploded. My dad was struggling with his business. My brother was struggling in his own way. All of that contributed to the incident that happened that day. It was just years of building up with our own frustrations, our own problems going on, our misfortunes. It was one of the worst points of my life.”
Hutchinson had struck up a relationship with a gym in Daytona, Fight Sport, when he and his family relocated to the Sunshine State. Without anywhere else to turn, he approached the owner, former heavyweight and light heavyweight fighter Todd Cutler, and asked if he could stay at the gym in exchange for custodial services and general upkeep. He ended up spending almost three years there.
“That’s where I trained every day, basically,” he says. “I wasn’t working. I was on food stamps and ate and breathed jiu-jitsu. Through jiu-jitsu I found myself. That’s how I got my ground game this good so fast and, through jiu-jitsu, I got into fighting and here I am today.”
He has since reconciled with his family and recently welcomed his first niece into the world. And though sibling rivalry and the occasional familial strains rear their unbecoming skulls now and again, whatever wounds were opened have scarred over with even tougher tissue.
“In a lot of ways I’m glad it happened,” he says. “It wasn’t good how it happened, but I’m glad it happened because now we have a stronger bond and I’m a better man for it.”
The benefits of living at a gym with nary a distraction proved just what the doctor ordered for him. He spent thousands of hours on the mats rolling, soaking in everything he could in obsessed transfixion. As the hours turned into days, the days became months and the months rolled over into years, the rough edges of his psyche which had before caught so often on various social, scholastic and competitive difficulties smoothed themselves over.
“It was like a soul-searching thing,” he explains. “All I did every day was just concentrate on my own mind, on myself and just training. Any anger, any frustration that I had throughout the years, I escaped through jiu-jitsu. I find respect and a good sense of everything, confidence and integrity through it. When I first got there I couldn’t—I didn’t talk to anybody. I just trained. I just trained and took care of the place. That was it. People saw me as some bizarre and weird, silent guy, but I had heart and I just trained. Eventually, the shell starts to break down because you find yourself and become happier. I found happiness and a lot of positive things through jiu-jitsu. You take it outside of the gym in the way you treat others and how you carry yourself.”
It was around that time, when he’d secured a purple belt under Cutler, that he began competing as an amateur, making his debut on July 1, 2011 at Breakthrough MMA 1 and winning by third-round rear-naked choke. Down to a comparatively svelte 155 pounds, he secured the Breakthrough MMA lightweight title two fights later. He closed out his amateur career with a 9-0 record by winning the Breakthrough MMA 145 pound title.
But while things in the cage seemed to be going spectacularly, such wasn’t the case back in the gym.
“Todd Cutler also grew up with some unfair challenges, but living in that gym I got to know him and he can be… the best way I can explain it is he can be a big asshole,” he says, with a reserved cadence. “Unfortunately, his morals—his way, his message—eventually I couldn’t take it anymore. One, I just didn’t like and two, it was affecting me, my career and what I was trying to accomplish in my life. He kind of saw me as his property because I lived there and he felt like he groomed me. He gave me a place to stay, but then I’m the one who has to wake up every day and choose what I have to do, whether it was training, struggling… whatever it might have been. I’ll be forever thankful to Todd Cutler, despite any kind of bullshit that may be going on between us, but I just needed to get out of there. I was done with that life, that influence, that kind of mentality.”
By that time Hutchinson had patched things up with his father and brother, so while he wasn’t homeless, he was without a gym. He began frequenting another Daytona Beach facility, The Armory, located in the city of Port Orange.
“When I came there, I was confident in my ground game, but my hands needed work,” he says. “Pete [White] was training boxers out of there. I got with him, he helped me out and we hit it off. Now he’s my coach and my manager. We went pro together.”
Anderson “Superman” Hutchinson won his pro debut at Maxx FC 23 – Rumble in Paradise by split decision against Caleb Williams, whose current record sits at 6-2, and followed it up with a second-round knockout—the first of his professional and amateur career—at CUFF 07 four months later. The success he’d experienced as an amateur proved no fluke; he was legitimately good and getting better with every contest.
Around this time, entrepreneur Paris Tsitos was putting the final touches on a prospectively powerhouse organization, House of Fame MMA, and was tapping fight gyms for their top unsigned fighters. Headlined by a fight between M-1 Global heavyweight challenger Kenny “Deuce” Garner and former UMMA super heavyweight and heavyweight champion Matt “The Attack” Kovaks, House of Fame: A New Dawn took place at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, opening with Hutchinson’s bout against Jayson Jones. Hutchinson won by unanimous decision.
The win occurred at a fortuitous time, as the World Series of Fighting was making its first (and thus far only) visit to Tampa with WSOF15: Branch vs. Okami. Unobligated by any contract to remain loyal to one promotion or another, Hutchinson signed a one-fight contract and faced former XFC and Bellator featherweight Troy Gerhart on the preliminary portion of the card. He won again, upsetting the favored Gerhart.
Not wanting to risk losing an undefeated promising fighter to another promotion, Tsitos offered to sign Hutchinson to a four-fight exclusive deal as the first franchise fighter under the House of Fame banner.
Defeat finally struck in the first quarter of 2015 by way of a close split-decision loss to Danny Chavez at House of Fame – Nations Collide: USA vs. Cuba. Many MMA fans may remember hearing about the event as a result of hip-hop celebrity Fat Joe’s appearance on Ariel Helwani’s 272nd episode of The MMA Hour to support it, as he performed a sort of halftime show with American Idol fan favorite Kelly Kime.
“In my heart, I don’t think I lost,” he says. “But to the judges, I lost, yeah. At the end of the day I said I was going to finish him and I didn’t, so I probably deserve the loss anyway. That’s what happens when you leave it to the judges. Shit happens. At the time, it hurt. It’s one thing for someone to really beat you. I didn’t finish him—and I feel like shit about that. Like I said, I feel like I deserved the loss because I said I was going to finish him but didn’t—but not only that… I lost by split decision. I thought, ‘You know what? Maybe this is God’s way of telling me to just shut up and fight.’ I deserved that as a wake-up call or something like that—motivation.”
He bounced back with another close split decision, this time ruled in his favor, against Pedro Gomez in the co-main event of HOF 3: Riverside Beatdown at The Jacksonville Landing. Following yet another erosive bout he decided that, to take his career further, he would have to drop to an even lighter weight class.
“Honestly, in this sport you find guys who are kind of hard-headed, who really don’t care,” he says. “I want to be as smart as I can be in this. If I’m going to go in there and chance getting my ass kicked, put my body on the line, I want to be smart about it. If I’m 5’7” and I’m fighting these big ‘45ers who are 5’11” and have 10 pounds on me the day after they weigh in because I can cut to ’35 but I like food, I’m going to cut to ’35 because I can perform and fight better and win more. Those five or 10 pounds matter at the end of the day, especially when you’re fighting somebody just as good as you.”
On October 29, the 28-year-old will enter the cage as a bantamweight for the first time at House of Fame 4: Florida vs. Georgia, once again taking place at The Jacksonville Landing. His opponent is, Aaron Rajman, an American Top Team product and local fight promoter whose amateur organization, American Battle Championships, was at the center of one of the most contentious grudge matches in recent South Florida MMA memory.
“I don’t know Aaron Rajman; I don’t know him as a person and I don’t know him in any other way than as I see him fighting,” says Hutchinson. “I have nothing to say as far as shit-talking or anything like that. I’m just getting myself ready and I’m coming prepared. I hope he is too, because he’s going to have to go through hell to beat me. This is the only thing that I know. This is the only thing that I love and I have no ‘plan B.’ I have ‘plan A’ and this is it, so I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.”
With his House of Fame contract close to running out, Hutchinson will soon find himself at a career crossroads. However, he seemingly isn’t as concerned with the organization with which he signs as he is with shoring up what he sees as deficiencies in his fighting style.
“I’m sure we’ll see how the fight goes, but honestly… I’m in this fight game here, I’ve gotten four decisions on my record and I hate that,” he says. “I’ve got to change something in my mind and start finishing people that I can finish because the UFC, Bellator and all of these big organizations… they don’t want fighters who just win decisions. That’s been one of my problems that I can fix. I just need to figure it out. I’m winning these fights, but I’m not winning in the fashion that I want, so right now I need to focus on doing that. Then, if the UFC or Bellator… if we approach them and they want me, then yeah, absolutely we’ll take it. Also, how they’re paying me… that’s important, because I can’t fight forever and I need to make money. Honestly, I’ll fight for whatever organization is going to pay me the most, because I’m going to fight great guys, but I’m going to do it for the right price.”
Anderson “Superman” Hutchinson (5-1) faces Aaron Rajman (2-1) in the co-main event of House of Fame 4: Florida vs. Georgia at The Jacksonville Landing in Jacksonville, FL on Thursday, October 29. Doors open at 7 p.m. Click HERE for more information and to buy tickets.
(Slider image courtesy of Emmitt Wakefield Photography.)