No one has ever said preparing for perennial heavyweight contender Roy Nelson was fun, but as far as Jared Rosholt is concerned, it’s easy work compared to getting ready for his last opponent, 6-foot-11 ½ Stefan Struve.
“It’s been a lot nicer, not having to experiment and trying to figure out how to get that look and stuff,” Rosholt said of his current training camp. “And even with doing all that, it still doesn’t make it comfortable being with somebody that long and tall. This was a once in a lifetime thing, hopefully.”
Rosholt won the fight over Struve at UFC 193 last November, setting up this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night co-main event against “Big Country,” who is not approaching the seven-foot mark. I joke with Rosholt and tell him the UFC signed a trio of seven-footers.
“I hope I stay ahead of them,” he laughs.
So was dealing with the “Skyscraper” better than worse than he expected?
“I guess it was really weird,” he said. “The takedowns were easier than what I’d thought they’d be, but getting to him, every time I thought about the takedown, I was thinking, man, his knees are not very far from my chest or my head. (Laughs) It’s not going to take much – you’ve got to watch out if he’s going to lift one of those up and catch you. So it was definitely a different feeling in there with him. It was a little bit uncomfortable actually.”
But when it was over, it was unanimous, and the Arlington, Texas product had the biggest win of his career in front of over 56,000 fans at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. Now that was something Rosholt wouldn’t mind experiencing again.
“I couldn’t ask for a better experience in Australia,” he said. “I thought it was great. The fans and that big crowd and being there in Australia in that huge stadium with that many people, it was just electric in there.”
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Las Vegas on a big fight night, especially on Super Bowl weekend, can be pretty electric too, and when you’re on a three-fight winning streak and coming off a win over an established name in the division, the fights are only going to get bigger. This is a prime example, and if Rosholt can defeat Nelson, that’s a major statement to kick off 2016.
“Nelson’s one of those very tough guys,” he said. “He’s fought everyone and he’s definitely a veteran of the sport; he’s one of the tougher guys in the UFC ever, in my opinion. He’s tough to finish, tough to beat, and he only loses to really good guys, so this is a good step up and a good chance for me to show that I belong up there with the rest of those top guys. I have to think that a solid win over Roy here would build a case for me to fight somebody for a contender’s fight.”
He’s right on all counts, but each fight on the way up the ladder comes with its own particular puzzle. With Struve, it was height. With Nelson, it’s the Las Vegan’s dynamite-packed right hand. Is there any way to prepare for that power, other than just hoping to not get tagged by it?
“With anybody like Roy, who has power like that, you’ve got to plan on trying not to get hit by it as much as possible,” Rosholt said. “And that’s one of the dangers of Roy Nelson. He’s got so much power in his right hand, and he’s got power in his left hand too, and it’s going to be trying to avoid that power. And he throws it the whole fight. It’s not like ‘I’ve got to avoid it a couple times.’ You’ve got to pay attention the whole 15 minutes, or else one of those punches comes through and it could be lights out for you.”
Luckily, Rosholt’s UFC career has prepared him when it comes to staying focused for 15 minutes. Yes, he got stopped by Alexey Oliynyk in their November 2014 bout, but other than that hiccup, he’s won six fights in the Octagon, with all six victories either going the distance or making it into the third round. That’s called getting your feet wet in deep waters.
“I’ve been in the deep waters more times than I’d like to be, that’s for sure,” he laughs. “Everybody says ‘you need to get more finishes’ and listen, I don’t want to be out there any longer than you think I should be out there. I want to be out there and wham, bam and I’m done and out of there quick. But it prepares me for a lot of things – it’s that grind and adversity and dealing with it and staying focused the whole time and pushing through the tough situations. That’s the kind of experience a guy needs for those fights that are really tough, and I think it will end up paying off down the road against really good guys at the top. When things get gritty, I’ve been there a bunch of times, so it’s fine. I think that’s a good thing.”
A better thing would be a win over Nelson, and if he pulls it off, Rosholt doesn’t want to wait. He wants to keep moving.
“By the end of the year, I want to be in the talks for a shot at the title,” he said. “Another two wins, I should only be fighting guys that are ranked up there now. So if I keep winning and keep moving up the rankings, by the end of the year, that third fight I should be talking about a title fight or something close to it.”