UFC 166: An Atypical Pre-Fight Interview with UFC Heavyweight Roy Nelson

Duane Finley@duanefinleymmaContributor IOctober 18, 2013

Apr 27, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Roy Nelson (white shorts)  celebrates defeating Cheick Kongo (yellow and grey shorts) during UFC 159 at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Roy Nelson is truly in a league of his own.

The iron-chinned heavyweight with cinder blocks for hands has been a staple at the highest level of the sport for the better part of the past decade, and his ability to dish out one-punch destruction has made him a favorite with the mixed martial arts fanbase.

"Big Country" is easily one of the most recognizable figures in the sport. The grizzled prowess of his "mountain man" beard and the luxurious spill of his mullet have helped to elevate a profile initially created by his ability to best the opposition inside the cage. These elements have ultimately been amplified by Nelson's brutal honesty where soundbites are concerned as the 37-year-old has developed a reputation for being one of the gamest interviews in all of MMA.

With that in mind, there is perhaps no person more suited for this series than he.

As a writer who has made a career out of doing interviews and features, I have come to learn that timing means everything. When fighters are locked in the repetitive media grind of fight week or in the middle of cutting weight, there are times when getting through a basic pre-fight interview can be a grueling affair for both parties involved.

Sometimes there is simply a need to switch things up. Sometimes things need to travel off the beaten path for the sake of refreshment.

With the buzz surrounding Saturday's card for UFC 166, the media attention across the MMA landscape has been fast and furious, which guarantees the major players involved have been subjected to a revolving door of interviews and topics. And Nelson is certainly in this collective.

The anticipation surrounding his co-main event tilt with Daniel Cormier this Saturday, the former TUF winner has certainly been subjected to the process. And when the opportunity to get some time with the heavyweight knockout artist arose, I decided to take things in a different direction.

To little surprise, Nelson was ready for everything Bleacher Report had to thrown his way and this is what transpired.


As a longtime practitioner of martial arts, you are an avid fan of old school kung fu and karate movies. In your educated opinion, between Enter the Dragon and Bloodsport, which movie reigns supreme?

That depends on how cheesy you like your movies and how deep into martial arts you are. If you are in-depth about your martial arts then you go with Enter the Dragon. If you just like to watch fights like the the average UFC fan, then Bloodsport will do. Both movies serve a purpose, though. If you have roots in martial arts and it's in your blood, you go with Bruce Lee because the martial arts in that movie is more technical. Bloodsport is more of your introductory class in the same way The Karate Kid was. Those movies will get you into it, Enter the Dragon will show you how it is done.


I also understand you are getting into the action genre as well with a recent role in The Scorpion King 4. Is there any truth to these rumors that you are expanding your talents into the realm of action flicks?

I went over to Romania, started my acting career and I'm moving on up.


Did you get to punch or kick anything?

I used swords and threw some punches but no kicks. 

May 26, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Roy Nelson following his TKO over Dave Herman (not pictured) during UFC 146 at the MGM Grand Garden event center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Your beard has become a signature trademark. Some great men throughout history have rocked the beard, and with that in mind, who do you believe set the standard where beards are concerned?

For great men...let's go with Jesus. He's the most famous and he had a great beard. He did have a little bit of an unfair advantage though. 


Little known fact but you were quite the baseball player before you decided to dedicate yourself to a career in mixed martial arts. I've often heard fighters talk about connecting on a knockout punch say it felt as if they were punching through something and not the devastating impact it appeared to be. Baseball players say similar things when describing launching a home run. As a man who has done both, is this something you can validate?

You're definitely trying to hit the home run, but at the same time, when you connect it just goes right through. It's the same thing with a knockout punch. You hit the sweet spot and they go right out. But the home run is the better of the two because it takes less of a toll on your body. 


Speaking of baseball, your fight this Saturday will take place in Houston. The Astros have been struggling for the better part of two decades. Do you think you have the skills to play for the Houston franchise?

Probably not. It's been awhile since I picked up the bat and took a few swings.

Apr 27, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Roy Nelson (white shorts) competes against Cheick Kongo (yellow and grey shorts) during UFC 159 at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

If you had three months to get into form, do you think you could at least get in their farm system for AAA ball?

You know...that's definitely a possibility. I know the last time I threw the first pitch at a baseball game I got it over the plate. I threw a perfect strike right down the middle. I didn't have a problem throwing it. That's better than a lot of people who throw opening pitches at baseball games and I only needed a couple of practice throws on the side to warm up my arm. I threw it right down the pipe.


I was at a post-fight press conference once where you said MMA media should be held to the same standards the fighters we cover. If we write two bad articles we should face the possibility of unemployment the same way a fighter would inside the cage. Do you still hold this view or has it changed in the past year?

I think with writers it all depends, but I still keep them to that standard of two bad articles. If it's two bad articles about the same topic then something needs to be done because they obviously didn't learn the first time. It's a bit different in fighting because with a different opponent, the game changes a little bit.

Let's say if a someone writes a dumb article about me and then turns around and then does one about Cain Velasquez, I'll give them a bit of a pass. But if they were to write two bad articles on either Cain or I, then there is obviously something that is lacking in the progress department because now they've written back-to-back bad articles on the same subject.

May 26, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Roy Nelson (left) prepares to fight Dave Herman (right) during UFC 146 at the MGM Grand Garden event center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

You became a father last year and as a proud family man, I'm sure the experience was "hands on" from the get go. As a father myself, I know the initial four months with a newborn can be a hazy experience and I'm wondering which is more difficult: Surviving the opening stages of parenthood or the rigors of an MMA training camp?

Definitely training camp. Being a father is easy because it's something you want to do. It's fun and it's all worth it.


Having been born in raised in Las Vegas, you can maybe shed light on one of the city's great mysteries. Is there any truth to the phrase "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?" Or is it simply a promotional tool?

That depends on what you do and it's definitely circumstantial. If you have a bad night where you mess around and catch herpes, that's going home with you. That is the gift that keeps on giving.


Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.