He’s the “everyman” of the UFC.
With a belly more fit for a beer parlour than the Octagon and a good-ole-boy attitude more at home in a southern truck stop than a pay-per-view big screen, Roy “Big Country” Nelson is quickly becoming one of the UFC’s most popular fighters.
Nelson has made a career of drawing attention to his physical flaws and speaking in a folksy, guy-next-door demeanour during his pre- and post-fight interviews.
Following each win, he rubs his belly to thunderous applause and runs his fingers through his mullet.
“The fans relate to me because I’m normal,” Nelson told ESPN Radio following his Fight Night win over Stefan Struve earlier this week.
“I’m not acting like I’m better than you or I’m above you or anything like that.
“I’m a guy you can go and drink a beer with.”
He’s also a guy with one-punch knockout power who is making a case to take on the elite of the 265-lb. class.
With a 15-4 record, the former International Fight League heavyweight champ is no stranger to hardcore fans.
But his audience grew once he won The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 and became a full-time UFC fighter.
The 33-year-old has won both of his fights in the UFC by TKO — neither fight going past the first round.
On Wednesday — following a seven-minute power failure that delayed the fight after both he and Struve had already entered the cage — he took 39 seconds to dispose of the 6-foot-11 Struve.
In his post-fight interview, Nelson said the power outage may have been a sign of things to come and called out newly signed boxing champ James “Lights Out” Toney.
Nelson said that given his recent heavy-handed outings, a fight with Toney would be a huge pay-per-view draw.
But with the UFC heavyweight division more stacked than ever, Nelson may end up facing other up-and-comers like Junior Dos Santos, Cain Velasquez or even Cheick Kongo. Nelson resembles a modern-day Tank Abbott — only with skills that extend beyond the cuffs of his gloves.
The Las Vegas native — who has a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie — says his ultimate goal is to get a shot at Brock Lesnar’s heavyweight belt.
Having suffered no punishment in his 39-second win, Nelson is good to fight again almost immediately.
But with Lesnar set to take on interim heavyweight champ Shane Carwin in July, Big Country will have to fight again before he gets a shot at the belt.
Whatever happens in the months to come, Nelson is sure of one thing: He will continue to be a light-hearted, self-deprecating joker and his fan base will continue to swell.
“My wife knows that I love me inside,” he says jokingly.
“And, as (UFC president) Dana White would say, no one loves Roy more than Roy loves himself.”
Fighters get Ultimate payoff
Four fighters from Wednesday’s Ultimate Fight Night 21 went home with bonuses. Roy “Big Country” Nelson took home an extra $30,000 for Knockout of the Night. Kenny Florian took home the same amount for Submission of the Night and Ross Pearson and Dennis Siver each took home $30,000 for Fight of the Night.
UFC 115 on June 12?
Despite the back-and-forth between the UFC and the City of Vancouver, UFC 115 seems set to stay in the west coast city for its June 12 date. Concerns over insurance and other matters had the fight card on the ropes earlier this week, but those issues seem to be resolved.
Surgery for Alves
Thiago “Pit Bull” Alves has successfully undergone surgery to fix artery problems on the left side of his brain. The Brazilian is expected to be back in the gym within three weeks.
The Promise advances
The only Canadian on this year’s The Ultimate Fighter reality show has made it past the preliminary fights and is now officially part of the cast. Calgary’s Nick “The Promise” Ring won his fight against Woody Weatherby Wednesday night and will now go into the house and the weekly fights to vie for the TUF 11 title.