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Hector Lombard: A Happy Man at 170

"If I beat Jake Shields, I’ll consider myself in the title picture." - Hector Lombard

Hector Lombard is in a good mood. He’s laughing while getting his car washed, joking about how his weather in south Florida is better than that of his interviewer’s in New York. It’s not what you would usually expect from someone who has to cut to 170 pounds for the second time after fighting most of his career as a middleweight, but given the result of that first welterweight bout against Nate Marquardt last October, it explains his good humor a little better.

“To be honest, I always thought I was going to finish Nate Marquardt,” said Lombard, who did so by knockout in less than two minutes at UFC 166. “He likes to go in and strike, and even though he ran a little bit, I knew at one point, he would try to exchange and I would catch him.”

He caught him all right, picking up his 19th knockout victory and announcing his arrival to the 170-pound weight class in as emphatic fashion as someone can. So what’s the verdict on fighting at welterweight?

“I feel a lot faster, more focused, more into the game,” said Lombard, who admits that while he felt stronger as a middleweight, “I was carrying a lot of weight then.”

Which makes the speed advantage he now has on most opponents at welterweight even greater. Add in his one punch stopping power, and the 36-year-old is more dangerous than ever. It makes you wonder whether he now wishes he made the move even sooner.

“Yeah, I thought about that, but you won’t change a thing when it’s working,” he said. “And it was working at 185.” > Watch: Meet Hector Lombard

Before the Marquardt fight, Lombard’s record stood at 32-4-1 with 1 NC. He had never been stopped in any of his losses, and his UFC debut loss to Tim Boetsch in 2012 snapped a 24-0-1 unbeaten streak. Yeah, he was pretty good above 170, but knocking out Marquardt like he did was a game changing sort of victory. If he can do it again this weekend against Jake Shields in their UFC 171 bout, it could put him close to the title picture. Or the way he sees it, IN the title picture.

“If I beat Jake Shields, I’ll consider myself in the title picture,” he said. “You’re talking about a guy (in Shields) who beat the biggest names in the sport. I know he’s boring, but he can’t beat you with his boringness, right? I don’t underestimate him or his boringness, and I don’t want to take him lightly. If you see the fight with GSP (Georges St-Pierre), he actually hurt him a couple times, and that fight was quite even, so beating Jake Shields will put me where I want to be.”

That confidence comes from years of success, as well as the swagger you usually see from graduates of the legendary Cuban amateur boxing system. Lombard, a native of Matanzas who represented his country in the 2000 Olympics in judo, has that swagger, despite never setting foot in a boxing gym back home.

“I never trained with any Cuban boxers, I never trained with any Cuban trainers,” he said. “I started my fighting in Australia, and everything that I picked up, I picked up in the gyms training down under.”

Now he’s spending his training camps in Coconut Creek with the American Top Team squad, home to another welterweight on the UFC 171 card, Robbie Lawler. So the question has to be asked, if Lawler defeats Johny Hendricks this weekend and Lombard beats Shields, would the two fight?

“If Robbie wins the fight, it’s going to be very intriguing, but at the same time, Robbie is my teammate, so I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll have to wait and let (ATT co-owner) Dan Lambert decide what he wants to do. But if it doesn’t happen that way, then I’m right there.”

And ready for anything.

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