Roy Nelson was one of the brightest stars in the heavyweight division and a crowd favorite, but after being dominated by Stipe Miocic in a lopsided decision loss Saturday night at UFC 161, the future is uncertain for the bulky brawler.
Nelson was on his last fight on his current contract with the UFC, and there had been talk about whether the company would re-sign the talented heavyweight or if he would try to sign with the UFC’s top rival, Bellator MMA.
Nelson told MMA Weekly during the UFC 161 post-fight press conference about his future and where he’s likely to end up when he signs a new deal:
I go where the fans want me. If Dana and Lorenzo want me to be with the UFC, I'll be knocking on Cain Velasquez‘s door, or whoever the champ is, when I'm knocking on it. ... My interest (right now) is I want to get past this loss and just fight. That's what a fighter does. I just want to get out there and fight and get another W. Where that opportunity is, hopefully it's with the UFC, if they want me here then I'll be here.
He may not be the best pure fighter in the world, and his weight and lack of conditioning are alarming to some in the sport, but Nelson is an exciting fighter who brings the fans into an event with his power and unstoppable chin.
As great as he looked in his previous three fights (all first-round knockouts), though, the loss to Miocic halts the hype machine surrounding him temporarily. While Bellator would have loved to steal Nelson from underneath the nose of Dana White and the UFC officials, the loss has killed his momentum and the company will now likely low-ball the big man to coax him away.
What would have been a massive bidding war that would have come with a victory has now become a tense negotiating process that will result in a far less expensive contract for one of these MMA companies.
Nelson lost more than a fight Saturday; he lost his chance at an enormous payday.
There is no questioning that the better talent is in UFC right now. But with a television deal with Spike TV and an affiliation with TNA Wrestling, the possibility that Nelson could jump ship to Bellator is still there.
With another loss likely relegating him to the bottom of the heavyweight title contention ladder, starting over in Bellator as one of the company’s top stars and a focal point of the marketing campaigns could be the new beginning the big man needs.
Nelson is a star, and Bellator needs another top name to build around.