(Nelson lands a right hand en route to beating Brendan Schaub to become ‘The Ultimate Fighter’. Courtesy of Zuffa LLC)
When Roy Nelson defeated Brendan Schaub to win the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, he walked away holding a six figure contract with the biggest MMA company in the world. It was a dream come true for the thirty-three year old, who had competed in the mixed martial arts scene for a number of years before his life changing victory.
His journey to The Ultimate Fighter house was a long one, having competed in the IFL as its heavyweight champion and having fought the likes of Andrei Arlovski, Ben Rothwell and Brad Imes before he arrived at the TUF house. Even on the show, Nelson had to get through the likes of Kimbo Slice, Justin Wren and James McSweeney, before a knockout win over Brendan Schaub won him the lucrative contract. It certainly hasn’t been an easy journey for the BJJ black belt.
In four weeks time, Nelson comes up against Dutch heavyweight Stefan Struve in a fight that could put the winner amongst the elite for a shot at the title. With Cain Velasquez waiting in line for the champion, and Shane Carwin and Frank Mir snapping at the heels of Brock Lesnar for a huge title unification fight this summer, both men know that they need to work extra hard to pick up the win in this fight. It’s a win that could push either man another step up the ladder towards that illustrious title shot, and help them stand out amongst a crowded division that also includes the likes of Cheick Kongo, Mirko Cro Cop, Junior dos Santos and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
“Training is always good here at the Country Club” says the former IFL Heavyweight champion. “Preparation for Stefan has been interesting. We just started to put people on shoulders so I get that look,” Nelson states, hinting at ways to tackle Struve’s incredible 6ft 11 inch frame.
The bout against Struve is expected to be a good clash, with the two men heading into the fight holding solid win streaks. For Struve, it’s another chance to show the MMA world his impressive skills on the mat – with fourteen out of nineteen wins coming by submission. However, Nelson certainly doesn’t have a weak link in his jiu jitsu, and his black belt in BJJ from Renzo Gracie means that he is a dangerous prospect when grappling on the mat.
A close fight is definitely in prospect, and when asked how he expected the contest to go, Nelson refused to hint at how the fight would pan out, instead suggesting that both men remain talented enough to end the fight wherever.
“The best thing about this fight is that we are mixed martial artists, so you never know,” states the Las Vegas native. “I intend on beating Struve with my length and my abnormal build to derail his win streak.”
His fight against the former Cage Gladiators heavyweight champion will feature on the main card at Ultimate Fight Night: Florian vs. Gomi, but Nelson admits that there isn’t any extra pressure when stepping in the cage. Struve, on the other hand, knows all too well what a victory over a fighter such as Roy Nelson will do for his career, and coming off the back of an impressive win over Paul Buentello, the twenty two year old will likely utilize his strong Muay Thai ability when standing. Is this something Nelson is prepared for?
“The answer to this question is usually an easy one. Any Muay Thai striker throwing knees, you just put them on their back, [however that] might not be smart thing to do with Stefan Struve,” he states respectfully.
“Struve has won three of his four fights in the UFC so he is a great opponent,” he continues. “[He] is right in the mix, so I would like to think I will be too”.
Of course, for fighters such as Nelson, studying and researching opponents become a normal formality in their job. To succeed in the cage, it’s important to take the time to look at how your opponent usually performs and pick apart their weaknesses. It’s something that Nelson does well, but he also has another way of preparing for fights.
“I usually bring my laptop or Xbox before a fight to just get my mind off it,” he says. “I am big nerd that happens to fight. I love the computer, and I love playing sports games.”
Growing up with the Atari, and then the Nintendo, Nelson admits to loving sports and first person games due to his competitive streak, and playing the computer is one of his favourite past-times.
The Madden-loving heavyweight will continue to step up his training routine as the bout draws closer, and will be hoping to improve his record with another win when he meets the talented Dutch kickboxer on March 31st.
A great guy, with a great sense of humour, we could very well have ourselves a fight of the year candidate once the cage door closes in North Carolina.