If you ask Roy Nelson, he'll tell you he ranks in the top five of the UFC heavyweight division. And if you ask him about potentially dropping to light heavyweight (205lbs), he'll tell you he'd have to cut a leg cut off just to make the weight. "But I'd still do pretty good," he says dryly.
As Nelson heads into something of a rebound fight with Mirko Filipovic this weekend at UFC 137, his sights are firmly set on the heavyweight division. He's suffered setbacks against Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir. And he's been showered with suggestions about fitness changes from UFC President Dana White to the lowliest fan. Despite the arm-twisting about recalibrating his body and even career, Nelson has no intentions of changing weight classes. The fighter out of a Fernando Botero painting continues to view himself as a top heavyweight contender who is a mere one or two wins away from reclaiming the August 2010 momentum he had before facing Junior dos Santos.
In this interview with MMA Nation on 106.7 The Fan, Nelson discusses weight loss, where he ranks in the UFC heavyweight division, what went wrong against Frank Mir and learning how to marry his responsibilities as both fighter and businessmen.
Luke Thomas: Alright joining us right now on the McDonald's hotline, he takes on Mirko Cro Cop this Saturday at 9 p.m. October 29th at UFC 137 as part of the undercard for B.J. Penn vs. Nick Diaz, the one and only Roy Nelson. Roy, how are you?
Roy Nelson: I'm pretty good, how you doing?
Luke Thomas: I'm going good Roy, there was a picture this week of you and UFC light heavyweight Forrest Griffin. Now Forrest Griffin is actually a very large light heavyweight but it looked like you had really slimmed down. Can you speak to that? Was that picture just one of those cell phone pictures where you can't accurately tell how much weight a person has lost or have you really sort of trimmed down for this fight?
Roy Nelson: I think it's my beard, it makes my face look smaller and we know Forrest is off and he's a big light heavyweight, he's about 4-5 inches taller than me.
Luke Thomas: It's true, he's definitely big, but it didn't look like he was just bigger but it didn't look like it was just your beard. As magnificent as the beard is, it didn't look like it was just the beard. Are you telling me you're exactly on weight as you were for say, the Frank Mir or Junior dos Santos fights?
Roy Nelson: I'm probably, the other day when I weighed myself I was 262 so I was two pounds heavier than what I was for against Frank.
Luke Thomas: Okay, I want to talk about your fight with Mirko Cro Cop in just a minute but let's take a step back if you would. I would like to get your thoughts on two of the biggest heavyweight fights this year in part because you've faced one of the guys competing. Cain Velasquez taking on Junior dos Santos, that will be for UFC on FOX. You fought dos Santos, you went the distance with him and you know what he's capable of. With Cain coming off of surgery, what chances to you give Junior of upsetting Cain and taking his belt?
Roy Nelson: Upsetting Cain? I don't think it would be an upset so much. I think whoever controls the fight in the first 2 ½ minutes is going to go on to win the fight.
Luke Thomas: And for Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem, it's cliché to say it but it's the classic grappler versus striker. Can Lesnar rebound from two bouts with diverticulitis or for Overeem, is this a runaway for him?
Roy Nelson: I have no idea. I couldn't even really tell you because Brock was supposed to fight in June and then he didn't so I can't even tell you like that he's even gonna fight.
Luke Thomas: Alright, so let's circle back to your fight, UFC 137 taking on Cro Cop. It's sort of interesting to me that you and Mitrione and Schaub, who were all on the same cast for Spike TV season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, you guys have all had your ups and downs. If you had to sort of rank where you guys are at this point in the UFC heavyweight division, you, Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione, where would you put yourself and then those other two fighters?
Roy Nelson: I don't really know here I'd put them two, but with me, I know I'm game to fight Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos. I've been fighting those top dogs all the way ever since I've gotten out of the Ultimate Fighter house. I do think this is the first test for Matt Mitrione so we'll find out on Saturday if he can even get past a guy that's been in the UFC for while. Brendan has definitely shown that he's right there in the middle of the pack beating Gonzaga and then Gonzaga retires so it all depends. For myself, I put myself in the top five easy and then Brendan 5-10 and then 10-15 for Matt.
Luke Thomas: You know Brendan Schaub and you have a similar opponent obviously, this one this weekend, Mirko Cro Cop. Brendan won but it wasn't until the third round until he put Cro Cop away. I know you don't care about this because you don't think about it but now that I'm asking you, I know you would like to finish him quickly but is it any kind of importance or any matter of significance that you finish him more quickly than Schaub did?
Roy Nelson: Nah, I could take all three rounds, take fifteen minutes. I think what it was, I think it was the same thing as with Frank [Mir]. Brendan was actually doing better than Frank was in their fight but it's all about styles and matches and it also depends on if the guy wants to fight you or doesn't want to fight you and then the whole element of the thing is: does the guy make a mistake? With Schaub, he made a mistake through a kick without putting his hands up and that's how he got the knockout.
Luke Thomas: So the biggest takeaway from the Frank Mir loss was what. When you look back and think, "Well here's what went right and here's what went wrong." In your mind, what went wrong?
Roy Nelson: What's wrong was do not do any expos before a fight. Do not touch dirty people.
Luke Thomas: There was an interview that came out this week about you getting sick. Was it from touching people at the expos? How long had you been feeling under the weather going into that fight? Was it a week, two weeks, two days? How long?
Roy Nelson: I got sick after I went to Toronto for the UFC expo and I didn't think, I was like, "Okay, I've got plenty of time to recover," but I didn't want any antibiotics because antibiotics really messes with your cardio and really puts you underneath the weather so I was gonna tough it out and do the man thing and still go to work being sick and during the fight, I just hit a wall. It's not like playing basketball and then drinking some Gatorade and you can pull it out in the fourth quarter.
Luke Thomas: What I'm kind of curious about, for certain you didn't get the best performance out yourself at 130 that you wanted, fair enough, but didn't you notice in training, any kind of inability to rise to what you're historically accustomed to? Did you feel, "My god, maybe I'm not getting the training out this I need because I'm not feeling so great." Did you feel that way?
Roy Nelson: Yeah, when you feel like you're still fighting at 75 percent or 65 percent, but if you think you're 65 is better than that guy's 100 percent, you still gotta do it if that makes any sense. It's like Michael Jordan playing sick because, "My 60 percent is better than that guy's 120."
Luke Thomas: Okay, looking back now, do you always need to be as close to 100 as possible to win and win consistently in the Ultimate Fighting Championship?
Roy Nelson: If you want to hang with the big dogs, you've got to definitely make sure you're on your A-Game. I've always been the fighter first and the businessman second so I've kinda been more of a mixed martial artist now. I learned from my last loss to be more of a complete mixed martial artist when it comes to business. You've got the business, then you've got to be the fighter and then you've got to be the entertainer. You've got to mold those all three to where it fits together and makes harmony. You can't just be a fighter all the time.
Luke Thomas: So what does that mean for your matchmaking. Does that mean you'll be more selective in saying, "This fight can do this for me and this fight can't?"
Roy Nelson: I've never done it that way but in a business standpoint I could be like Koscheck and say, "I just want money fights," but like pretty much all my fights have been the top dogs and I like facing the top athletes in the world. I just want to make sure I'm always 100 percent if I'm fighting the top athletes in the world.
Luke Thomas: So let's say it came along, and I'm just throwing this out there, I'm not in any way suggesting that it could, I'm just offering it to you. Joe Silva calls you tomorrow and says, "Alright, I've got something completely out of the box for you Nelson. I want you to fight either Shogun or Jon Jones and if you beat Shogun then you get a shot at Jon Jones." I know you're tired of the 205 pound questions but is that so intriguing that it makes smart business and fighting sense for you?
Roy Nelson: I would ask you, "How much?" and then I'd need to figure out how much I could lose off of liposuction or getting amputated from cutting my leg off.
Luke Thomas: (laughs) So in other words, if there was a lot of money involved, say seven figures, is seven figures enough to make a major career change?
Roy Nelson: Major career change? Yeah because then I could afford surgery.
Luke Thomas: You sort of make the point in the same way Daniel Cormier does, there's just no realistic way of making that weight at least not in your own enthusiastic efforts but is it, I mean short of surgery, short of drastic means like gastric bypass, is it biologically for you to make it? Forget the will, forget all that other stuff. Is it biologically impossible short of surgery?
Roy Nelson: Biologically? I'd have to lose muscle. That's one thing people don't pay attention to is like I wouldn't do a gastric bypass but I'd have to literally cut off my leg and I'd be a one-legged 205-er but I'd still do pretty good.
Luke Thomas: Before I let you go here, a couple more questions about the card itself. UFC 137, 9 p.m. It's gonna take place in Las Vegas, Nevada. I guess I'm looking for a prediction in the Cheick Kongo - Mitrione fight. Who do you like in that one? I know you assessed it earlier but can you make a prediction for us there?
Roy Nelson: That one's kind of a tough one. If Cheick Kongo goes out trying to strike with Matt, it could definitely go in Matt's favor. If Cheick Kongo goes and fights him like he fought Paul Buentello like a ground fighter then I think it could be short work for Matt Mitrione.
Luke Thomas: And then in the main event, who do you like in the main event, B.J. Penn - Nick Diaz?
Roy Nelson: That one is a toss-up. That one is, I really like both of them. I've known B.J. 10-11-plus years, Diaz probably just as long, nine years or so. I think that's just one of those fun barnburners. You don't know what kind of B.J. comes to the table and you know Diaz always comes to fight. It's gonna be a fun fight.