If Roy Nelson walked into a room and said, “I’m a mixed martial artist,” most would spit their Starbucks on the floor in laughter. However, those who know better are well aware that big-bellied “Big Country” may not look the part, but he’ll hand you a beat down just the same. As “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner prepares to step into the cage with living legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic at UFC 137 in Las Vegas, Nevada, the heavyweight BJJ black belt spoke to MTV Clutch about his dashing looks, a second job as Santa Claus and the secret ninja training he’s been doing in preparation for his fight this Saturday.
What’s this secret ninja training you’ve been doing in preparation for your fight with Cro Cop?
It’s not just secret ninja training that I’ve been doing. I’ve always done Shaolin Kung Fu as well. But everybody understands ninja training though.
Can you elaborate for people who don’t understand?
Oh, people understand ninja training. There are movies made about ninja training. It’s like if I talk about zombies. Everybody knows how to kill a zombie even though nobody has ever actually seen a zombie. So I’ve been ninja training in preparation for this fight. Watch a movie and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
OK…would you have looked at this fight differently if you had to take it five years ago when Cro Cop was kicking people’s heads off?
No. One thing as an athlete is that you have to get past the aura. You have to fight the man who is in front of you, not this magnetic shield that goes around him thanks to how the press builds him up. It doesn’t matter if he has 50 wins, zero wins or one win, you have to deal with the man in front of you.
Both you and Cro Cop have two losses in a row and a third could see one of you getting your walking papers. Is that extra pressure and motivation heading into this fight?
With any fight you don’t want to lose. Whether it is two, three or four losses, it really doesn’t make a difference. I think you do get yourself in trouble when you start focusing on losses. Look at the Indianapolis Colts. They haven’t won a football game all season so maybe they should just retire too, right? But guess what? There’s always next season. It doesn’t end here.
You didn’t make excuses against Junior Dos Santos and Frank Mir despite coming into those respective fights with an injury and walking pneumonia. Are you as close to 100 percent right now as you can be, and would you tell us if you weren’t?
I wouldn’t talk about it but this has been one of my smarter training camps. I made sure I didn’t go do expos or too much press. I went the “Nick Diaz” approach with this fight.
Does it annoy you that after all of these years of winning fights people still choose to talk about your weight? Is it possible that your belly is your strength, like the hair of Samson?
People always focus on my weight and the way I look. I’ve just become accustomed to the idea that when you are a celebrity there are three things that people focus on. They focus on how much money you make, who you are sleeping with and what you look like. Obviously, people focus on the way I look and that’s just the way it is. I don’t worry about it.
Let’s talk about this badass beard you are sporting.
I’ve been growing it since my last fight. I’ve probably trimmed it four or five times.
Was there any particular reason for growing it?
In training camp we were talking about what is the one thing each of us could do right. I said that I bet I could grow a beard. And, as you can see, I did it!
Is it like an NHL playoff beard where you cut it off after the fight?
I’m thinking about keeping it; so in December, I can start my second job as Santa Claus.