BILOXI, Miss. — Having gained the reputation throughout his illustrious MMA career as having a durable chin, and a hard overhand right, Roy Nelson enters a new sport with those same assets at his disposal. With over 40 fights under his belt in the mixed martial arts world, Nelson has shifted his focus on the burgeoning bareknuckle fight scene. Having won his bareknuckle debut by spectacular first round knockout, Nelson will now face the undefeated, Alan Belcher in Belcher’s hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi on Friday night. A battle for bareknuckle heavyweight supremacy is at stake, with the winner cementing himself as one of the sports top big guys. The fight will take place under Jorge Masvidal’s Gamebred Bareknuckle MMA banner, the sixth installment under the company’s umbrella.
Zenger News caught up with “Big Country” to discuss this mega card on the Gulf Coast.
Zenger: Jorge Masvidal described you as the perfect bareknuckle fighter. What has this adjustment from MMA to bareknuckle been like for you?
Nelson: I think the biggest difference is finding out it hurts a little bit more, but it’s really about distance. You go from boxing to where you can get away with catching shots with your hand slightly up by your chin and it covers everything, to MMA where you gotta go a little bit higher, to bareknuckle where you have to take cover, and cover everything.
Zenger: You said it hurts a little bit more and you are not as young as you were obviously when you started MMA. Do you do anything treatment wise to prolong your bareknuckle shelf life?
Nelson: The bareknuckle thing is like a bucket list thing. As long as I’m competitive and I’m still competitive with some of the best in the world. So, bareknuckle is a little bit different than bareknuckle MMA, so this is like old school. This is what started the UFC. We’re just going full circle.
Zenger: Given the amount of time both you and Alan [Belcher] competed in the sport of MMA and the UFC, is it odd to be meeting him in a completely different sport?
Nelson: He went on a whole different trajectory the last 5 or 6 years. He hasn’t lost a fight in boxing or bareknuckle, and he’s become the bareknuckle champ, and he’s a young buck. It’s one of those things, I never thought I’d be where I’m at today, but I’m happy to put on a show and go out there and have a good time.
Zenger: We are expecting a knockout in this one, but are you reluctant at all if it goes to the cards, considering it’s in his hometown?
Nelson: The only thing about being in someone’s backyard, especially in that Mississippi and Alabama area, it gets a little tricky because it’s like, “I won that fight,” and they’d be like, “I don’t care. You killed him, but you lost.” You definitely have to put your stamp on it. I’ve been in those hometowns… when I fought Ben Rothwell in his hometown, and I found out that one of the judges was his sparring partner. How does that happen?
Zenger: Given the fact that you’re just getting into bareknuckle and to headline, what I feel is one of the best cards the sport has presented to date, how does that make you feel?
Nelson: I’m excited! This is like a rollercoaster and we’re still going up-up-up. After this one, I don’t want to count my chickens, but I think it will continue to go up. Jorge has been putting on better and better shows. This is a better show than the last show, and it keeps on getting better and better.
Zenger: Does bareknuckle force you to do anything differently conditioning wise?
Nelson: The only thing that I try to do, I go to my old Kung Fu roots where you’re practicing your iron hands, so you can try and condition your hands where you can punch skulls.
Zenger: For anyone thinking about watching this fight or coming down to Biloxi, Mississippi to attend, what can they expect from Roy Nelson and Alan Belcher?
Nelson: I think the biggest thing they can always expect from me is fireworks. I’m always looking to put on a great show regardless of what happens. You will definitely be entertained.
(Additional reporting provided by Joseph Hammond)