by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo courtesy of IFL)
It’s hard to imagine that the heavyweight champion of a large promotion feels he still needs to earn respect, but that’s much the case for International Fight League titleholder Roy “Big Country” Nelson.
Since debuting for the promotion at the start of 2007, he has dominated much of the competition he’s faced, with the only exception being a controversial split-decision loss to Ben Rothwell in Nelson’s second IFL fight.
Subsequently after the loss to Rothwell, Nelson has been on a tear, winning five in a row, including taking the IFL heavyweight title and successfully defending it twice, yet a chip still remains on his shoulder.
So, it was with that need to prove himself yet again, despite his successes, that Nelson went into this past Friday’s IFL event at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut looking to once again show that he is a legitimate top heavyweight, this time against former UFC and “The Ultimate Fighter” reality star Brad Imes.
“A win’s a win,” said the usually self-critical Nelson. “I did something that some other top MMA athletes haven’t done – stopping Brad. It feels pretty good to be the first one to do that.”
He further analyzed his performance by saying, “I noticed I was pretty sloppy with my punches. I landed some clean shots, but I was a little over anxious.
“Most of them landed, but there were a couple that he blocked. I wished all the punches had landed versus 90 percent of them.”
Heading into the fight there was quite a disparage in height and reach, favoring the longer Imes, but Nelson was able to effectively neutralize it with his game plan.
“With guys with such long reach, you’ve just got to overcome,” he commented. “I kind of work on my style to look to get inside their jab and counter with my jab or overwhelm them with pressure and my presence.”
At this point Nelson’s efforts to become a complete fighter are paying off, even though he doesn’t always get the recognition for the all the skills he has.
“It’s funny, about 80% of the people out there think that I’m just some fat guy who can swing, like Tank Abbott,” said Nelson. “They have no clue that I’m actually a better ground fighter than striker.
“The fighters know I’m a better grappler than striker, so it’s just evolution that my hands are coming along now. Slowly I’ll keep adding more to the striking and more to where I can set up my ground game to finish guys.”
With his second title defense secured, Nelson now looks towards staying busy, with a future that could include a trip to another promotion if the IFL’s talks with other companies yield any opportunity for contractual talent to fight elsewhere.
“Career-wise, I’m the guy who loves competition,” he stated. “Whatever the IFL gives me or whoever I can get in the Top 10, Top 20, as long as the pay is there – I just want to fight top level competition and prove to the world that I’m one of the top fighters.
“I would love to fight in any other organization, because I am one of those guys, whoever you put in front of me, I’m more than willing to fight.”
Should Nelson continue on his current path, it would be inconceivable that he would not eventually make his way into the upper tier of heavyweights and earn the respect he feels he deserves once and for all.
“I just want to thank all my sparring partners, Ken Shamrock and Skip Kelp,” closed out Nelson. “To the fans, just go to RoyNelson.com or BigCountry.tv for all the latest news and info on me.
“(Thanks to) all the guys that believed in me and what type of fighter I would become for sticking around. For all the people that don’t believe, one day you will believe, if not, that’s kind of all on you.”