Roy Nelson is hammering his way to the top of the heavyweight division.
The former TUF winner has crumpled his past three opponents, leaving each lying dazed on the canvas as the result of his devastating anvil of a right hand. The momentum he’s gathered in the divisional picture has “Big Country” knocking on the door of a shot at the heavyweight title, and the Las Vegas native is determined to make the opportunity to compete for UFC gold a reality.
Following his first-round destruction of veteran Cheick Kongo this past weekend at UFC 159, the former IFL heavyweight champion used his post-fight mic time with Joe Rogan to declare he wanted to face the winner of the upcoming tilt between title holder Cain Velasquez and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 160.
The moment was Nelson’s for the taking, but at the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White expressed other interests for the heavyweight knockout artist. White told the media in attendance that he and matchmaker Joe Silva had discussed the next step for Nelson, and the 36-year-old’s next opponent would either be Strikeforce Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier or former K-1 champion Mark Hunt, should the “Super Samoan” get past Junior dos Santos at UFC 160.
While both potential challenges present interesting angles for Nelson, the only thing that matters to the heavy-handed slugger is championship gold. It is the opportunity he’s been chasing since coming under the UFC banner in 2009, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.
“I want a shot at the UFC title,” Nelson told Bleacher Report. “In this division, all it takes is one shot to become a champion, and I want that opportunity. I know I can knock out anyone in this weight class, and I want the chance to prove it. If I hit you clean, you are going out. I’ve proven that time and time again inside the Octagon, and I want to fight for the heavyweight title.
“I put on exciting fights every time out. The fans are who I fight for, and it feels great to know I have their respect out there because the fans decide what happens. Granted, it ultimately comes down to what Dana [White], Joe [Silva] and Lorenzo [Fertitta] want, but the fans have a tremendous amount of influence on who gets the big fights. I truly believe my fans and fight fans in general want to see me get that shot. But if I end up having to fight Cormier or Hunt next, then I have no problem with doing either.
“Fans have been talking about the Hunt fight for awhile now, and I’d be interested in fighting Mark if he beats Junior [dos Santos]. It would be a fight between two guys who go out there to lay it all on the line and aren’t afraid of standing in the pocket and trading.
“As for Cormier, that’s a different kind of fight,” Nelson added. “He is a former Olympian and I don’t think he would have too much interest in really mixing it up with me. Daniel can wrestle, but my jiu-jitsu is strong, and if the fight with Frank Mir is any indication of how he feels about trading punches and playing jiu-jitsu, then I’d say there wouldn’t be a lot of action in that fight. But if the UFC decides Cormier is next, then so be it. I just want whatever is going to get me closer to that title.”
Nelson’s recent win streak has put him in the title conversation in the heavyweight division, but becoming a father last year has changed his perspective entirely. While he once thrived on his “anytime, anywhere” mentality, the focus has now shifted to seizing the moment and getting the biggest opportunities available.
When asked about whether or not a victory over Cormier or Hunt would cement a title shot in stone, Nelson took the conversation in a different direction.
“If I can’t get the title shot I’m looking for, then I have a different plan in mind,” Nelson said. “I’m really interested in the biggest fights imaginable, and I think I could really get into some of this ‘super fight’ talk. I’d like to set the table in 2014 with fights against Jon Jones and Anderson Silva. I’d even take a piece of Georges St-Pierre while I’m at it. People always are talking about this pound-for-pound business, and I’m down to see what that is about.
“Some sites have Benson Henderson ranked on that pound-for-pound list above Cain Velasquez. That’s crazy. Henderson couldn’t beat Cain. Maybe I’m the guy who can sort out all this pound-for-pound talk and settle a few of those arguments. I’ll chase Dominick Cruz around. Or throw me in there with two flyweights. Let’s see what happens.
“Otherwise, give me the title shot I want and I guarantee I’m going to make the most of it.”