Distraught isn’t the right word, so let’s just say that upon learning that his opponent this weekend at UFC 146, Dave Herman, wasn’t using the nickname “Pee Wee” anymore, Roy Nelson simply went into denial.
“We’re gonna just go call him Pee Wee, so Roy’s beating up Pee Wee,” laughed Nelson. “He has to be Pee Wee for my storyline. You’ve got Pee Wee’s Playhouse, there are secret words of the day. I could do the Pee Wee shuffle afterwards. There’s a lot.”
It’s not the usual path a pre-fight interview goes, but Nelson has never been one to follow trends.
“I’m just trying to make sure the fans are happy and that they get to see me fight,” he said. “I think that’s all that really matters.”
So whether it’s his post-fight belly rubbing, his mullet, his epic beard, or his no holds barred approach to the sport, “Big Country” wants you to be entertained. And over eight years after his pro mixed martial arts debut in 2004, he hasn’t strayed from this philosophy, even when the sport hadn’t reached the heights it’s at now.
“The thing is that everybody loves fighting,” he said of the early years. “If it wasn’t gonna be considered a sport, it would definitely be considered as an event or a spectacle or something. People wanted to watch, so it has entertainment value. So I’m either a fighter or I’m a professional stuntman.”
You could almost picture him doing it too. In fact, he hasn’t even ruled it out for the future. “I would love to go down the stuntman road,” he said in all seriousness, begging the question, how does his wife Jessy put up with him?
“Easy,” he said. “I’m good looking, I love her, and that’s all that matters. I think it’s just the golden rule. Treat people how you want to be treated and you’re gonna be okay.”
Maybe that’s the secret to why Nelson is one of the UFC’s most popular heavyweights. There’s also the little matter of his fighting style, one in which he has little regard for his own safety while going toe-to-toe with some of the biggest names in the business. Yet while he has three Octagon wins by knockout over Brendan Schaub, Stefan Struve, and Mirko Cro Cop, he also has three punishing decision defeats against Junior dos Santos, Frank Mir, and Fabricio Werdum, bouts in where he won more praise in defeat than most get in victory. The reason? His unyielding will to win and his cast-iron chin.
The most recent was a three rounder with Brazil’s Werdum that earned both fighters a Fight of the Night bonus. Nelson also left the arena with a nasty gash on his forehead, leading many to wonder what the day after a fight like that looks like.
“I went to a Super Bowl party, shook hands with some fans, kissed some babies, and then back on Monday it was seeing what I did wrong, which was basically that I didn’t execute the gameplan, and just going back to being a better fighter.”
So no thoughts of ‘hey, I’m 35 years old, what am I doing this for?’
“That’s every day,” he admits with a chuckle.
But he still goes to the gym, still gets in shape, and still shows up on fight night ready to go hard for 15 minutes or less. This time around there were a couple detours, as Nelson’s original opponent, Antonio Silva, was moved up to face Cain Velasquez after Velasquez’ foe for May 26th, Frank Mir, was elevated to the main event spot opposite Junior dos Santos after Alistair Overeem wasn’t licensed for the heavyweight title bout.
Next it was Gabriel Gonzaga who was moved in to face Nelson, but “Napao” got injured, leading to the insertion of Herman into the fight against “Big Country,” who may not care for his opponent’s former nickname, but who certainly respects his foe’s fighting ability.
“Dave has 24 fights and has done real well for himself,” said Nelson. “He’s very tall, very awkward, and he’s kind of a Jon Jones type in that he’s long and lanky and you don’t know what’s coming.”
What Nelson is expecting is a fight that he hopes will propel him back into the contenders’ race after losing three of his last four. And if you ask him who’s on his radar, it’s not surprising when he says that he would love to face anyone who has beaten him already.
“The title’s always the goal,” he said. “At the end of the night on Saturday, the belt is gonna be around Junior dos Santos’ waist. And there’s only one guy that’s even come close (to dos Santos) to where you’re like ‘ooh, ahh, I think he’s getting his ass beat, ahh’ and it’s me. Give me a shot at anybody that I’ve fought at least once. I’ll fight Werdum, I’ll fight Frank Mir, I’ll fight any of those guys. The thing is, I’ve got your number now. I’m like the Terminator where I learned from my first mistake, and the second time it’s like ‘is that all you’ve got?’”
But would any of that trio even contemplate a rematch given their previous wins over the Las Vegan?
“I think my first quote I ever said in the UFC was ‘after somebody fights me, they’ll never want to fight me again,’” said Nelson. “And I still believe that to this day. And the thing is, at the end of the day, I’m always a better fighter, I’m gonna leave 110% out there, and the last thing they ever want to do is fight me again.”
And the way Roy Nelson is approaching the fight game these days, forget about not wanting to fight him twice. He wants to make it where you don’t want to fight him at all.
“I had a long conversation with my wife and my coaches, and basically, my new perspective is if you sign the contract, you’re disrespecting me and you think you can whup my ass, and now I’m gonna whup yours.”
Nelson Adding a Dose of Mean to the Big Country Diet
"I think my first quote I ever said in the UFC was ‘after somebody fights me, they’ll never want to fight me again.' And I still believe that to this day." - Roy Nelson