Who is Roy Nelson, who steps in the ring on Saturday against Stipe Miocic in the UFC 161 main event?
Nelson is a martial artist whose discipline has resulted in a coveted black belt from the famously stingy Renzo Gracie. He’s got one-punch knockout power to boot. This brings in fans.
Nelson is also really fat and has a big unkempt beard. This probably brings some fans in, too. But it upsets Dana White. So does Nelson’s attitude.
Nelson, above all, is a fighter. In a way he’s like Nick Diaz, who famously complained about his distaste for press conferences and the like as he had no claims of being a professional athlete. Diaz lamented how the sport was “geared to that sportier athlete” as he noted: “I’m at war. As far as I’m concerned, this is warfare and I’m a ninja warrior and I’m taught to kill in the most efficient way possible. That’s the sort of mentality I’m going in there with. I don’t want to sit next to you and have a conversation and lunch and have an interview together and talk and shake hands.”
Nelson on the other hand wants to enjoy lunch, rub his giant belly and tell the UFC president to “get me a Whopper” after a win. So, he’s not a ninja, but he’s a character and his own boss.
He’s like Alek, the character in Dave Walsh’s just-published book “Godslayer,” an ex-champion who finds himself in a booming MMA industry – when he has no interest in anything but fighting. As his bout approaches, Alek makes a mess of press appearances. At one point he tells a reporter, “the stuff these kids are doing now, the weight-cutting and the stuff with hormones… that isn’t me, I wasn’t brought up to be an athlete…”
Nelson just doesn’t have your goals, or mine. He’s happy to throw other UFC fighters under the bus and say they’re on performance enhancing drugs. On a press conference call he happily noted, “People that tend to be in our sport tend to abuse PEDs or performance enhancing drugs. So that’s the reason why I probably don’t look like the typical UFC fighter.”
In these ways and others, Nelson has really pissed off the boss. White calls him “an absolute pain in the ass” for his antics.
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday night’s UFC 161 fight – yes, even if he scores his fourth straight victory – Nelson will still not be considered for a title shot this year, or any year.
He’d have to force the boss’ hand to get a shot, and Nelson’s style may be a less than 50-50 proposition against the top names of the division. He’s already suffered defeats to recent challengers Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir. Fabricio Werdum also defeated Nelson last year.
Therefore, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see gold around his large waist. The question is, why does it matter to us if it would seemingly not matter to him? He enters the cage and fights. He beats all but the best.
So, Nelson isn’t a champion and likely won’t be. He’s just a hell of a fighter. That’s good enough for him and good enough for me.