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How 'Gangsta Mode' helps Alyse Anderson overcome anxiety, remain focused in training camp

Anderson takes on Asha Roka at Friday's ONE 157 event at Singapore Indoor Stadium.

MMA fans are bound to come across some of the most unique individuals in the sport, and ONE Championship atomweight star Alyse "Lil' Savage" Anderson is certainly one of them.

The 27-year-old played collegiate soccer, frequently rode dirt bikes, and even worked as a nurse in a Michigan hospital's COVID-19 unit in 2020.

What's more, she loves everything from gangster rap to indie pop, and she even lists Disney's Up as her favorite movie of all time.

But ahead of her fight with India's "Knockout Queen" Asha Roka at "ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot" on Friday, the adrenaline junkie with such a strong personality has a confession.

"Well, I guess people who know me know I'm kind of like a softie. Like, I don't like confrontation," she said. "I get anxiety doing small things, stupid things, like waiting in line at the grocery store, and it's something I absolutely hate doing because it makes me so nervous."

Fortunately, Anderson combats that anxiety by entering something she calls "gangsta mode." She often takes this mindset whenever she begins training camp, as it helps her to stay mentally sharp and focused on her goals.

"[Being in gangsta mode] just kind of means like buckling down, being tough, going hard in training, eating the right foods … it's just being on your A-game and not letting little things bother you," she said.

To be on her A-game, "Lil' Savage" needs to make some sacrifices.

Not only does she need to adhere to a specific diet and be diligent with her training at American Top Team, but she also needs the right music to keep her spirits up. Gone are the pop stylings of Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift. Instead, those mainstream darlings are replaced by something a bit edgier.

"All the lovey-dovey breakup music is what I listen to, but I do not let myself listen to that in camp," she said. "I'll put it on for a second and make myself switch it because I'm like, 'No, I'm in gangsta mode. I can't go down that road yet.'"

It's especially important for Anderson to stay on the right track heading into ONE 157, as she looks to bounce back from a tough ONE Championship debut.

Last September at "ONE: Empower," she lost a unanimous decision to then-undefeated Japanese phenom Itsuki Hirata.

Hirata had used her prized judo skills to smother "Lil' Savage" against the cage fence, throw her to the canvas, and establish control on the ground. Though Anderson knocked her down late in the fight, the Japanese star quickly recovered and returned to her grappling-heavy attack.

The American knows she could have done a better job with her takedown defense and creating separation, but she also noticed another glaring error.

"I didn't let my hands go until the third round because I think I was pretty nervous with it being my ONE debut. And everyone was telling me like, 'Oh, she has a strong overhand right,'" Anderson recalled.

"And then once I got hit with it a couple of times and realized that it wasn't going to knock me out, that's when I started letting my hands go. In the third round, that's when I dropped her. And I just know if I would have started that way, I could have avoided the clinching and the takedowns altogether. So I made two mistakes, but I definitely learned from them."

Now, just two weeks away from ONE 157, Anderson is fully in gangsta mode and putting in the work so she can defeat Roka in Singapore. And should she emerge victorious, then she can catch her breath and listen to all of her favorite pop songs again.