(Props to Dreamfighters.)
Bobby Lashley doesn’t regret walking away from a lucrative professional wrestling career to enter the fight game; it’s what he really wanted to do all along.
The former professional wrestler, born Franklin Roberto Lashley, enlisted in the U.S. Army after winning the last of three NAIA National Championships at Missouri Valley College. “I was fortunate enough to go straight into the [Army’s] wrestling program,” Lashley said, and the grappler spent nearly 4 years stationed in Colorado Springs, Colo, home of the Olympic Training Center. Part of the Army’s World Class Athlete program, Lashley’s routine consisted mostly of formations, roll call, and freestyle wrestling. While in the service, Lashley won a silver medal at the Conseil International du Sport Militaire Military World Games.
Discharged in 2004, Lashley dabbled in MMA training before he was approached with a World Wrestling Entertainment developmental contract. Carrying nearly 100 pounds more chiseled muscle than he did as a collegiate wrestler, Lashley performed in regional shows and wrestled in WWE dark (i.e., un-televised) matches before becoming a “face,” or good-guy champion for the subsidiary promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling.
The company had built Lashley into a main-event performer by the time he was released in early February 2008. The wrestler is unable to discuss the exact circumstances of his departure from the WWE, but he said when he was released from his contract he “still had that wrestling drive” to train and compete. Having recovered from injuries suffered in WWE shows, he was in top physical condition, so the decision to revisit MMA was a simple one.
The wrestler signed a two-fight contract with Kentucky-based upstart promotion American Fight League at the end of May 2008 and began training in earnest. Lashley said he wanted to earn credibility in MMA by working his way up to the top shows, and AFL CEO William “BJ” Santiago, “had the plan that made the most sense to me.”
Lashley’s own plan included signing on with First Round Management and joining American Top Team. Though he has made a home in Denver with his girlfriend, former WWE wrestler Kristal Marshall, and their infant son, Myles, Lashley initially used the ATT location in Fort Lauderdale as his primary camp. The top-level instruction, positive environment, and track record all factored into his decision. The fact that large men like Marcus “Conan” Silveira and Antonio Silva are there for him to work with was a bonus.
Lashley’s first professional fight took place at Mixed Fighting Alliance’s inaugural event on December 13, 2008, at Miami’s American Airlines Arena. The fighter wasted no time in snatching Joshua Franklin’s left leg and smashing him to the mat. Lashley backed off and attempted to throw strikes, but Franklin scrambled to his feet, eating several punches from Lashley in the process. Moments later, the referee halted the action, and the cage-side doctor stopped the fight due to a nasty laceration on Franklin’s forehead.
Lashley followed that up with a lackluster decision win over veteran Jason Guida at Roy Jones’ “March Badness” event before signing with Calgary, Canada’s Maximum Fighting Championship promotion. Lashley flattened and choked his opponent inside of a minute, escaping unscathed for his next test, against Bob Sapp on June 27 in Biloxi, Miss.
Earlier this month, Lashley announced that he would be training closer to home at T’s KO Fight Club, home of Shane Carwin, Nate Marquardt, and Duane Ludwig, and a sister gym to Greg Jackson’s Submission Fighting facility in Albuquerque, NM. If there were doubts that Lashley was serious about MMA, three wins in his first three fights should have put them to rest.
Update: FIGHT! was notified that Lashley is no longer with First Round and is represented by Shambala Sports and Entertainment.