Roy Nelson sees the movie star martial arts trend hitting mixed martial arts in the UFC and he wants in.
The UFC heavyweight is known for his long-flowing mullet haircut and “Big Country” belly hanging over his TapouT shorts. It’s given the former IFL heavyweight champion an aura of every-man heroism when he’s able to knockout Brendan Schuab and Stefan Struve in the Octagon or take the best punches Junior dos Santos can offer looking like an extra from Sylvester Stallone’s Over the Top.
Leading into his UFC 130 main card match with former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir at the MGM Grand Garden Arena this Saturday night, Nelson (15-5) reveals he wants to impress viewers with his martial arts prowess and land a famous coach in the process.
"I'm hoping not this fight, maybe [for] my next fight I'll have [Jean-Claude] Van Damme work some kicks or something like that,” Nelson told Bleacher Report. “It's just one of these things that as a fighter, you just go out and learn from every martial art kind of like Bruce Lee did it.”
Nelson admits he’s worked diligently in his home gym to prepare for the two-time champion. He’s also been watching tape: “Just Bloodsport,” said the 34-year-old. “It's the only one I need because I'll be Jackson in the next Bloodsport movie."
He’s not looking past Mir, but the seven-year veteran asserts a career in Hollywood is just another part of being a legend, like former champions Randy Couture or UFC 130’s headliner, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
Still, the prospects of teaming up with Van Damme aren’t as compelling to Nelson as seizing a signature win over Mir.
The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 winner admits the most significant roadblock of his careen has been not winning when he should win. A slight underdog to Mir, Nelson asserts this is a chance to prove he’s been a championship level fighter for years before arriving in the Octagon—a notion undercut by two controversial losses to Andrei Arlovski and Jeff Monson between his IFL and UFC careers.
"If the UFC bought the IFL, it'd be just like the PRIDE champions or something like that. It'd actually mean something just how the Strikeforce belt means something now,” the ADCC veteran said.
“Me being the IFL Champion, I won the Grand Prix so that means I had to beat a couple of people. Then me holding it after that showed where I belonged in the whole scheme of things."
Nelson gained fan fare for a pair of Knockout of the Night performances before losing a unanimous decision and a shot at the UFC heavyweight belt to Junior dos Santos.
Learning from his mistakes, the Renzo Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt breaks down the bout with Mir, a Robert Drysdale jiu-jitsu black belt, to damage more than the intricacies of mat work.
He has a healthy sense of fear and respect for Mir’s skills yet won’t shy away from trying to take him out of the fight early and often.
"The biggest [lesson] that I remember from the dos Santos fight is you have to punch the guy more than he punches you, so that's usually how you can dictate the fight,” he said. “If I can punch Frank more than he punches me, I win the fight."
Nelson downplays his dedication to the sport with self-deprecating humor; however, it’s been a life-long endeavor. He got his black sash in kung fu before his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Nelson reflects being a martial artist doesn’t make a better fighter—just a better person.
With a believe-to-achieve American attitude, Nelson hopes notching the most significant victory of his career over Mir will add more followers to his legion of martial arts and mullet enthusiasts he’s dubbed “The County Club.”
"There's a big list of code of ethics and basically a time period where you have to prove yourself then after that, you can be part of the exclusive membership of the Country Club,” said Nelson. “It can be like the Shaolin Temple where you have to wait out in front of the temple for years and years just to get in or they might just go, ‘This guy, we can see his aura and he's a good person,’ so we just let him in.”
Nelson leaves all potential Country Club members—Van Damme especially—with a reason to tune in for a “Big Country” fight at UFC 130: "Heavyweights always hit harder. You always see a knockout. Plus you got two guys that are larger than life.”
No kidding: Being larger than life is never a problem for Roy Nelson.
Danny Acosta is the lead writer at FIGHT! Magazine. Follow him on twitter.com/acostaislegend