by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
In a year where the International Fight League was wrought with injuries and change, any consistency was welcomed. For Reno Lions’ heavyweight Roy Nelson, consistency was the name of his game.
Coming off his first ever loss, to Josh Curran in BodogFight to end 2006, he entered the year with something to prove, and quickly did so, ending his first two fights of 2007 before the mid-way point of the first round.
In his third fight of the year, Nelson ran headfirst into the IFL’s premier heavyweight, the Quad Cities Silverbacks’ Ben Rothwell. After a three-round war, Rothwell won a disputed split decision.
Determined to not let that loss define his year, Nelson has rebounded, winning his last two fights leading to his appearance in this Saturday’s IFL Heavyweight Grand Prix Finals against Antoine Jaoude of the SoCal Condors.
“This year I feel went pretty good,” said Nelson of 2007. “I had a couple little bumps in the road that I probably shouldn’t have had, but overall I would say it was a success.”
His success this year can’t be chalked up to blindly being lead by the IFL’s set schedule, he specifically chose where he was going to be fighting, directly leading to the match-ups he encountered.
“When I was considering the IFL, I was going to join (Mike) Whitehead with Don Frye (and the Tucson Scorpions),” admitted Nelson. “With me and Mike alone, we’d have a good chance of taking the (world team) title over there.
“But I actually looked up the match-ups with the IFL and I looked to see which one had a tougher road and it was actually Ken’s team because they had Ben (and the Quad Cities Silverbacks on their schedule), and I decided that’s the way I wanted to go. That’s the reason why I joined the Lions.”
Nelson and Rothwell’s paths were supposed to cross in the Heavyweight Grand Prix, but due to a contract dispute, Rothwell exited the promotion before the two could have a rematch.
According to Nelson, at first while it wasn’t a disappointment to not get to fight Rothwell again, time has changed his view on subject.
“If you would have asked me two months ago, I would have probably said, ‘Not really,'” he replied when asked about missing out on a rematch. “I already know I beat Ben, but just from a standpoint for kind of more ego and personal issues, the longer it goes on, the longer Ben talks about it, yeah (I’m disappointed he wasn’t in the Grand Prix.)
“It just keeps eating me up because the more Ben talks to the press and news guys it’s more annoying. I would rather just beat him up again, but really just leave it out there and be like there’s no ifs, ands, or buts. He knows who won, I know who won, but when he works the press, he works it pretty well, and now I wish he didn’t drop out.”
Lost opportunities aside, what is real is what lies in front of Nelson, his Grand Prix match-up with Antoine Jaoude.
“After watching some film, he’s a strong wrestler. He wrestled in the Olympics for Brazil, so he’s going to be a tough guy to take down,” he explained. “His stand-up is coming around – he knocked out Wayne Cole – so my biggest thing for any wrestlers is to put him on his back, just like a striker, put him on his back.
“Most wrestlers don’t perform well off their back, so hopefully I can put him on his back, work for better position and then finish him off with a submission. Or like in my last fight (against Bryan Vetell), win by KO from dominant position.”
Considering the shifting status of the IFL of late, there is some confusion by fans and pundits alike to know who will be returning to the promotion next year.
“I had an option on my last contract, so they just renewed my option contact,” commented Nelson. “But if that’s the case, then right now we’re in negotiations for a new contract.
“They want to switch it over to their new championship format. But, so far, next year I should be with them, especially if I hold a belt.”
With his contract status worked out, Nelson can focus on his goals for next year and beyond.
“For 2008 it’s the same thing as 2007, just keep winning,” he stated. “I would like to broaden my spectrum and actually start fighting more dominant heavyweights.
“I would rather fight people like Ben Rothwell every fight. I don’t want to keep fighting guys who have like three wins. I want to fight a Fedor (Emelianenko), a Randy (Couture) or even a Gabriel Gonzaga. I just want to go to MMAWeekly and go to the rankings and see No. 1 heavyweight Roy Nelson.”
To take that next step, he has to continue his winning ways this weekend at the Mohegan Sun at the IFL Grand Prix Finals.
“I just want to thank everybody who’s helped me train for this fight, Skip, Adam, Dave; my sponsors, 108Clothing.com, SuperAction.com; my family, my friends, my fiancée Jessie,” concluded Nelson.
“I just want all the fans out there to know that I’m working for them. If you look at me, I look like the average guy, but I can be that average guy that can go out there and put on a good show.”