Will Roy Nelson Return to the UFC or Is He Bellator-Bound?
Following a disappointing loss at UFC 161, former Ultimate Fighter winner Roy Nelson will enter free agency with serious questions surrounding his next move in the sport.
Heading into Saturday night, the world was well aware that Nelson was on the last fight of his current contract when he stepped into the Octagon against Stipe Miocic. UFC President Dana White had stated before the card kicked off that the promotion had previously tried to work out a new deal with Nelson, but nothing was settled yet, so he would officially be out of contract once his fight was finished.
Unfortunately for Nelson, he may have lost some of his negotiating power after losing a one-sided unanimous decision to Miocic on a fight he took on just over two weeks' notice.
Now Nelson enters free agency for the first time in several years. Following the fight, he offered little information on where his head is at concerning his next move.
"I go where the fans want me," Nelson said when speaking at the UFC 161 post-fight press conference. "Wherever. If Dana and Lorenzo (Fertitta) want me to be with the UFC, then I'll be knocking on Cain Velasquez's door or whoever the champ is when I'm knocking on it."
It's no secret that Nelson and White share a very tumultuous relationship and rarely see eye to eye, but the UFC's head honcho does give the heavyweight slugger credit for always showing up and fighting whenever they've needed him.
"I respect Roy. Roy has a great chin, hits hard, has great wrestling (and) great jiu-jitsu. He was a man about this contract, like I told you guys the other day, his contract was up in July, we asked for an extension (and) he said no," White explained. "He doesn't have to say yes, his contract's up, it's up and we've got to get him a fight before it's over. We did, he stepped up, he took the fight. Do Roy and I always see eye to eye? No, we don't.
"We made an offer to Roy, and we'll sit down and talk to him again after this."
White was definitely correct about Nelson's chin, because in a somewhat dubious honor, the Season 10 winner from The Ultimate Fighter managed to break the record for most significant strikes absorbed in UFC heavyweight history without being knocked out on Saturday night. Throughout his UFC career, Nelson has taken 437 shots and has never been finished with strikes.
As great as Nelson's chin was again on Saturday, it didn't provide him the firepower necessary to offset the offensive output by Miocic. The end result was still a loss, and now Nelson sits in uncertain waters for his future.
There is no denying Nelson's appeal with fans, because rarely does he enter an arena without a loud chorus of cheers, but he has struggled to beat the best fighters in the heavyweight division during the course of his career. It's hard to let a commodity like Nelson go, but in the long run, like any contract, it will come down to negotiation and how much each side is willing to give.
"If they want me here," Nelson said about his future with the UFC, "I'll be here."
It can't be ignored that regardless of the loss, Nelson could still be a major signing for another organization—most notably Bellator. Nelson is close friends and training partners with current Bellator light heavyweight contender "King" Mo Lawal, and he is also a big fan of professional wrestling, which automatically poses the following question: If he could land a fight deal along with a contract to compete in TNA wrestling, would he take it?
Only time will tell the future for Roy Nelson, but these next few months should be very interesting.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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