Just days out from his upcoming fight against former professional wrestling champion Bobby Lashley, mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter/wrestler/Japanese icon, Bob Sapp, was the featured guest on MMAmania.com’s exclusive presentation of Pro MMA Radio this week.
"The Beast" looks to square off against "The Dominator" as the headliner at "Ultimate Chaos," which kicks things off Saturday, June 27, 2009, from perhaps the only market capable of containing such legends, Biloxi, Mississippi.
A K-1 Grand Prix champion (2005), Sapp has faced Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, and holds MMA and K-1 wins over Kimo Leopoldo and Seth Petrezelli and has twice defeated four-time K-1 champion Ernesto Hoost. He’s also a former pro-wrestling champion in Japan’s IWGP heavyweight division (a title current UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar has also held).
Sapp will be Lashley’s biggest test in MMA to date, as the former two-time Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) title holder and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) champion is just 3-0 in MMA, which includes a three-round unanimous decision victory over Jason Guida. He debuted in December 2008 and has been looking to build his MMA experience quickly.
A win over a 10-year veteran in Sapp would go a long way toward that end.
While some have questioned Lashley’s decision to fight Sapp, "The Beast" admitted he was "pleasantly shocked" that the American Top Team product agreed to take the fight, stating that Lashley’s current pace of taking four fights in seven months shows just how sincere he is about growing as a mixed martial artist.
Even still, it wasn’t Lashley’s sincerity that made Sapp want to fight him. It was his marketability — something "The Beast" knows a lot about:
"For me to go against another big-time entertainer with me doing ‘fight entertaining,’ it’s huge. Without question, I’m loving to get in there and mix it up with him … I’m hella happy for him to be considering to get this done."
To which Sapp added: "Come this weekend, he’s really stepped in it."
Sapp has enjoyed a commercial appeal that is quite unique among MMA fighters. He is adored in Japan, having appeared on countless magazine covers (he claims "hundreds of thousands," including making the cover of Time magazine in Asia and Europe), commercials, variety shows and other television programs and about 15 feature films.
Sapp fully admits that he’s achieved this notoriety by creating a character in Bob "The Beast Sapp — he says in a low, thundering voice, complete with maniacal laughter — which the Asian market eats up. He also says that he recognizes the distinctions between fighting (the sport) and the fight business:
"The business side is making it work. Going through and training and getting up and dealing with fans and people that hate ya and people that love ya, and being able to do commercials and things like this. Most of these popular fighters that you see, do they have the opportunities? Yes they do. Do they turn them down? Absolutely. Why? Because they (are) training for their next fight … I’ve said yes to absolutely everything."
Saying yes to everything — including careers in MMA, kickboxing and pro-wrestling, along with face-time in front of the camera outside of the ring — has left "The Beast" tired. He’s the king of capitalizing on the cameo. As Sapp puts it: "Sometimes it takes a lot of lettuce to make a rabbit jump."
He’s also made a career out of throwing caution to the wind in an effort to put on a good show for the fans, regardless of if it wasn’t the smartest strategy for winning a fight, because that, he believes is what the overseas fans want to see.
"You gotta go out there and lay it down. You gotta go out there and say, ‘Roarroarroarroar! I’m going to go for crazy real quick’ ... and move and shake ‘em and get it going and do all kinds of crazies. Why? Because that is what (overseas fans) would consider — and what I consider — to be a fight. You’re fighting everything, you’re fighting fatigue, you’re fighting being able to back up when you should be going forward, you’re doing all of that stuff and … Wooooooooh! It can be real crazy."
As Pro MMA Radio host Larry Pepe pointed out, that’s the Bob Sapp game plan: "Bull-rush, swing for the fences, he goes down or you get tired at some point."
Sapp agrees: "When you look through some of my fights, you can look through and say, man, this guy is throwing some of the wildest biggest punches that I’ve ever seen. And you know what? That’s great, because that’s my point. I want everybody to see them, including the guy I hate. Let’s see if you can stop them. Sometimes they can, and sometimes … Hey, the beast always gets ya."
Despite what might be seen as a reckless game plan, Sapp says he is taking the Lashley fight very seriously and has even incorporated a strict diet of sushi and ramen, as well as cardio training with Maurice Smith, in order to drop weight — something he realized was necessary when he sat down on a toilet and it cracked.
Fans have seen Sapp weigh in as much as 390 pounds for a fight; but the former decorated offensive lineman from the University of Washington who was drafted by the Chicago Bears says he is trying to get back to his "pro-football weight" of 320 pounds. He currently weighs about 345 pounds on a good day. He says the Lashley fight will be "The Beast" at the lightest fans have seen him.
While Sapp says he feels good, he admits that "it’s going to be interesting to see if I still have that power."
He’ll need it to fend off Lashley. The 6’3" physical specimen looks every bit of his 265 pounds. Sapp expects Lashley to throw a lot of strikes, but is hoping to avoid a lay-and-pray scenario, like he saw against Jason Guida.
Sapp wraps up the interview by answering a fan’s email question about the long-debated controversy regarding his last-minute withdrawal of a K-1 event in Holland from 2006 against Ernesto Hoost, which at the time was being billed as "Mr. Perfect’s" final fight before retirement. After attending the pre-fight presser and the opening ceremony, Sapp pulled out, leaving K-1 executives to claim that he made new demands that weren’t part of their contract agreement.
Sapp finally sets the record straight (sorta), by blaming a contract dispute with K-1 executives on the fact that they must have been smoking Amsterdam marijuana and forgot to pay him. No shit ... you can’t make this stuff up.
Check out the complete interview, as well as the entire Pro MMA Radio archive with host Larry Pepe, right here.