"If I can knock the guy out,
that’s cool; if I can submit the guy, that’s cool too. But maybe I just
want all knockouts and to have the record for that." - Roy Nelson
It probably wasn’t the first thing Roy Nelson thought he would hear from renowned boxing trainer Jeff Mayweather when the two started working together in Las Vegas, but he accepted the comment.
“Man, I heard you get hit a lot,” said Mayweather, the uncle of boxing’s pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather, and the brother of Floyd Sr. and Roger, to Nelson.
Then the two started working together, and the tune soon changed.
“He thought he was gonna work on my defense and he’s never worked on my defense once,” said Nelson. “He’s like ‘your defense is top notch.’ I think that was the biggest thing that he was surprised with, that I don’t really get punched.”
With that out of the way, it was time to work on the jiu-jitsu black belt’s offense. And what a difference that’s made in the arsenal of “Big Country.”
“With the punches, it’s just having more output, and I think that’s the one thing Jeff’s really helped me out with, being more the boxer, where it’s more output and not pure power.”
That output (along with the power), has seen Nelson add two more knockouts to a record that has seen him end all of five UFC wins with his fists, and with Matt Mitrione and Dave Herman now on his victims’ list, he’s not straying from the philosophy that everybody likes the long ball.
“Everybody just loves the home run,” he said. I think the only time I’ve ever seen an armbar get the oohs and yays is when Stefan Struve got stuffed every time he went for it with Mark Hunt. (Laughs) At the end of the day I just want the W. If I can knock the guy out, that’s cool; if I can submit the guy, that’s cool too. But maybe I just want all knockouts and to have the record for that, the most (UFC) knockouts for heavyweights.”
Heading into his UFC 159 bout with Cheick Kongo this Saturday in Newark, New Jersey, Nelson officially sits two knockouts behind Andrei Arlovski and Cain Velasquez for the aforementioned record, and while Kongo was stopped two fights ago by Mark Hunt, the Las Vegan isn’t expecting an easy night. In fact, in his official bio for this fight, he said of the Frenchman, “Cheick Kongo is one of the greatest heavyweights to grace the UFC. He has more wins at heavyweight than Randy Couture and is second in the heavyweight division. So he is destined to be in the Hall of Fame.”
That’s a bold statement, but Nelson isn’t backing down from it.
“You gotta respect everybody that you fight,” he said. “He (Kongo) has the second most wins in the heavyweight division, ever. All I can do is back things up with facts. The only person who has more wins than him is Frank Mir.”
With that being said, don’t mistake Nelson’s respect for timidity. He fully expects to have his hand raised this weekend.
“The thing about being in our sport is you’ve got to be consistent,” he explains. “You have to alter his consistency so it doesn’t work for him while you remain consistent at whatever you’re doing. You’re enforcing your will on him versus the other way around. So I think it’s about timing and doing what I’m supposed to do. I think I hit harder than he does, I know I have a better ground game than he does, so it all depends on how he plays his game and if I play his game. Is he gonna try to push his way against the fence, get me tired and try to take me down, or is he just gonna run and try to score points like how Carlos (Condit) fought Nick Diaz? It all depends on what kind of style he tries to bring and if I play into it, or if I just go out there and do what I’m supposed to do and just become the better fighter.”
These days for Nelson, being the better fighter has meant letting his hands go while watching his opponents drop. And the way he sees it, there’s no secret to his success as of late.
“I’m sitting down on my punches now, and instead of doing one punch at a time, it’s usually the second or third punch that I’m actually trying to focus on,” he said. “When I first got in the UFC and I fought Brendan Schaub, I just knew that it was the third punch that was landing every time. I doubled on the jab, and it was the third punch. So it was like a magic trick – I’ll get you looking over here, and then all of a sudden the punch comes from somewhere else and you get knocked out.”
Could Nelson’s next magic trick be getting a title shot should he dispatch Kongo in impressive style?
“Anything’s possible in the UFC,” said Nelson, who will likely have to see how the UFC 160 bouts between Cain Velasquez and Antonio Silva and Junior dos Santos and Mark Hunt play out before finding out if he’s in line for a crack at the belt. But he’s not afraid of a little early campaigning.
“The thing is that everybody knows that whoever I fight, it’s gonna be a fight,” he said. “With Mark Hunt, you’re hoping and praying that he lands a shot. With me, you know it’s gonna be a fun fight. You’re gonna be entertained from start to finish. With Mark, on the other hand, there have been times when you’ve watched Mark and you’re like ‘does he need oxygen?’ And it’s happened more than once. I think the only time I’ve ever gassed out to that point is when I had pneumonia and that’s when I fought Frank (Mir in 2011).”
To his credit, Nelson kept battling that night before losing a three round decision, and to him, that’s precisely the point. Win or lose, he’s showing up to fight. If he wins, it’s likely by knockout, and if he loses, bonus checks could still be handed out. That’s a rare mix, and he knows it.
“The difference is that I actually know that I’m an actual professional fighter and professional athlete, and there’s only one Roy Nelson,” he said. “If there were five million Roy Nelsons out there, then I’d be like, oh my gosh, I’m scared, and worried and all that other stuff, but the thing is, I know nobody can do what I can do.”