Bellator 183: “Henderson vs. Pitbull” heads to SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., this Saturday night (Sept. 23, 2017), featuring a Spike TV-televised main event between “Smooth” Benson Henderson (24-7) against Lightweight knockout artist Patricky “Pitbull” Freire (17-8) in a 155-pound showdown that should shake up the division going forward.
The arrival of Heavyweight star Roy “Big Country” Nelson promises to make an equally seismic impact in Bellator 183’s co-main event. After a long Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) run that stretched from the late 2000’s to an Alexander Volkov fight earlier this year, the 22-14 knockout artist with an appetite to compete gets his chance against a whole new roster in Bellator MMA.
First up to the plate is Javy “Eye Candy” Ayala. Nelson’s UFC fan base may not recognize the 10-5 fighter immediately, but regular Bellator viewers know Ayala as the man who beat Pride legend Sergei Kharitonov in just 16 seconds.
MMAmania.com recently chatted with Nelson about his Bellator debut, returning to the Spike TV spotlight, and how thrilled he is to be starting a new chapter in his storied career.
“You know I’m excited. I’m excited to reunite the fans back with Roy Nelson, with Spike and myself so, I’m just excited. It’s just a breath of fresh air.”
One reason that being reunited feels so good for Nelson is that he had one of the most-watched MMA fights in history on Spike. This time, though, the man in charge isn’t Dana White.
“That’s why I’m just really excited just to be back home with Spike, just because they know how to expand the MMA market. Scott (Coker), the one thing I love about Scott is Scott just lets you have free reign and he’s basically just like, ‘Roy you be Roy.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay - I can do that!’ That’s always a good thing when they know exactly what you’re doing and they believe in you and they need you to go out and be 100 percent.”
Nelson will have a chance to make more career highlights on Spike TV this weekend, but he has respect for the potential danger an opponent like Ayala brings to the cage.
“I mean the fact that he knocked out Sergei (Kharitonov) means a lot. Sergei definitely beat up some really good guys. I mean he knocked out Overeem, he knocked out Werdum. So the fact that he knocked out Sergei in 15 or 20 seconds, then that means he definitely has the power to do the same to me, which makes it an exciting fight for a fan. Two guys that bring thunder — you know you’re definitely going to see some lightning.”
To get ready for the storm front that’s he’ll bring to the left coast, Nelson has assembled a team full of power and technique to sharpen up his game, particularly the striking game.
“I have changed this camp up a little bit. I brought in Brother Fareed (Samad), he’s my new boxing coach. He trains with the Mayweathers, he’s trained with Jeff, he’s trained with Floyd. He used to train at the Olympic Training Center. He’s a guy who has definitely taken my boxing to another level. Everybody knows who ‘King Mo’ is. I brought Mo in and Mo came and we’ve done some stuff. Tim Johnson from the UFC, worked with him, and also I’ve worked with Francis Ngannou. I’m working with a couple of good guys this camp.”
Nelson hinted that he and Ayala are going to have a short and hard hitting fight. Either that or it will be a memorable fight at the very least that will definitely put him into title contention.
“The one thing I’m all about doing is making it exciting for fans, and right now I’m working toward the belt. You know that belt’s empty. I just want a shot at it so I’m definitely just going to go out and make sure I get my win and entertain fans and introduce them to Roy Nelson.”
The belt has been empty since May of last year, and had gone even longer than that without being defended, so crowning a new Heavyweight champion is arguably long overdue.
“Any time you go to any organization you have title aspirations. The one thing I learned in UFC was that title aspirations fade real fast when you find out that is has nothing to do with who you’re fighting — it’s all about politics. It has nothing to do with anything else. You can come off of five losses and still fight for a belt, or you just move up a weight class off a loss. Politics is how UFC is run. The thing about Scott Coker is (he) takes the politics out out of the game.”
In a career full of memorable moments with some of the biggest fighting promotions, Nelson seems to have only one regret for a place he didn’t get to fight.
“If I had the chance before Pride was bought out by UFC, I would have fought for Pride, because that’s where all the Heavyweights were. That’s where you pretty much went out to try to go after all of the Heavyweights. That’s the one thing.”
Nelson isn’t complaining, though. In fact he is emphatic about the fact that whether it’s a title fight or a non-title fight next after Ayala, he’ll take the contract and put in the work.
“You know what? Throughout my whole career I always just go ‘What do you guys want me to do?’ I mean I’ve taken fights where I still had pins in my hand so I really don’t care. As long as you call me up and go ‘Hey I’ve got a fight for you’ I’m like ‘Cool let’s do it!’”
“Big Country” is ready to put his name on the dotted line and his new and improved fists in the face of Javy Ayala this weekend in San Jose.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Henderson vs. Pitbull” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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