It’s been eight years since Roy Nelson last competed in a promotion other than the UFC but on Saturday night he will officially make his debut with Bellator MMA.
Nelson, 41, didn’t exactly have the best relationship with the UFC during his final days as part of the promotion, notoriously butting heads with Dana White on numerous occasions.
Now as he embarks on his Bellator debut just over five months since his last fight, Nelson is excited to perform to the best of his abilities again for a boss in Scott Coker who he truly believes will appreciate what he brings to the table.
“It’s definitely exciting. It’s really refreshing. It’s like when you’re at a job and you’ve worked your ass off to get right here, this is the job I want to be and you’re excited to work for the boss,” Nelson told MMAWeekly.com.
“I think the difference is when you work for a boss [like that at the UFC], you just don’t give 100-percent. You’re just like I’m working, I’m doing my job but could I have done it a little bit faster, could I have done it better? Sure, but I still got the job done. I entertained the fans, I put the butts in the seat or whatever, but it’s just like any other job.”
While this will serve as Nelson’s first experience inside the Bellator cage, he’s already seen a difference when dealing with the organization since signing on the dotted line to become part of the promotion earlier this year.
The way Nelson looks at Bellator MMA now is the way he used to view the UFC from a decade ago when “The Ultimate Fighter” had just brought the sport into the main stream and White alongside owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta were hungry to earn their audience.
“You know what it is, it’s the fighter’s organization and they actually love MMA,” Nelson said about Bellator. “That’s why I think they’re the ones who are actually going to make the growth in our sport better for MMA. The best example would be the excitement and dedication that the Fertitta’s had and Dana [White] had when they first got into the MMA business, where they were just excited. Now it’s just the routine and Lorenzo Fertitta was like I’m burned out, I’m done with this.
“Bellator reminds me of the UFC 10 years ago. They just want to put on great, great fights. I remember when the UFC used to have a stacked card, the whole card. This is why we’re better than boxing because you want to watch from the prelims all the way to the end. Now it’s just like who’s on the card? Now it’s just about the headliner and if one guy falls out, the whole card’s screwed.”
For his debut fight in Bellator, Nelson faces Javy Ayala, who isn’t exactly a household name but still a dangerous opponent nonetheless. Nelson expects to go out and put on another highlight reel performance that will hopefully earn him a shot at another legend on the Bellator roster, which he believes has plenty of heavyweight matchups to offer him.
“The heavyweight division is pretty stacked compared to the UFC. The one thing about me it doesn’t matter who you match me up with, it’s always going to be an exciting fight as long as the other guy comes to fight,” Nelson said.
“I’m all about fighting anybody. So from old matches, new matches, Fedor [Emelianenko], I would love to fight because then I’d be the guy who beat two legends in [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira and Fedor. So I’m all about fighting the best of the best.”