CagePotato Exclusive Interview: Roy “Big Country” Nelson

Roy “Big Country” Nelson

We may have missed it at the live show, but home viewers who kept HDNet on after Ryan Schultz’s shocking defeat of Chris Horodecki at the IFL’s World Grand Prix witnessed the pre-recorded heavyweight championship match, where the charmingly chubby Roy “Big Country” Nelson became the IFL’s first 265-pound title-holder with a stunning knockout victory over Antoine Jaoude. We were wondering how the last two weeks have been treating Nelson and how things are looking for 2008, so we called him up, and found ourselves in a discussion about Taco Bell, Ken Shamrock, Celine Dion and what life is really like for an IFL fighter. (Spoiler: It’s maybe not as glamorous as it looks.)

CagePotato: We know you’re a great grappler, but you had a monster K.O. to win the belt. Is striking something you’ve been concentrating on more lately?
Roy Nelson: Yeah, I’ve just tried to keep improving it. It’s always been the weak part of my offense, but overall, I try to improve everything from my wrestling, to my grappling, and now I’m trying to implement my striking. Kind of like the old Chuck Liddell, where you knew he could wrestle, but it’s a lot easier and a lot faster to get the ref to stop it, or stop it with your hands.

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We’ve seen you joke about gunning for sponsorships from Taco Bell and Burger King. Do you really live off of Extra Value Meals when you’re training?
I pretty much just eat clean food — you can go to fast food places and eat kinda’ clean, depending on what you’re eating. But normally, I cook my own food. I live life, and I’m glad I’m not a lightweight where I can’t enjoy myself.

There’s been a lot of talk about the IFL’s financial struggles as of late. What’s the inside scoop?
I’m just as lost as you are. Every time we ask anything, you know, like, “What’s going on?” or “What are we gonna do?”, we kinda’ get put in the dark. You know, finding out about how the new matches are going to be, the new team format and all that good stuff — I actually heard from the press, not from them telling us.

The IFL announced a while back that their business plan involved sharing profits with the fighters, as well as providing salaries and health benefits to train and fight. Has this been the case?
Yes and no. What I mean is, if you complained enough they would help with the medical stuff but you’d have to be all over them.

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Are you on salary?
The 2007 season, a lot of people were on salary. But now they’re trying to go backwards and just pay for fights.

We assume since the IFL is not turning profits, there has not been much by way of profit sharing, correct?
Correct. I think they used that method how a pimp does with his girl. Holding that carrot out at the end of the rainbow.

Will you still be fighting for the Nevada Lions this season?
I should be, but I’m not exactly sure how the format’s going to be. I don’t know if I’ll be doing team fights along with my title defense match — they’ve got it kind of all over the place.

How’s Ken Shamrock as a coach?
He’s not how they depict him on The Ultimate Fighter. He’s a good guy, and he’s been in the business for a long time. He knows what works and what doesn’t.

What are your feelings about the IFL’s transition to camps?
I don’t really know why they’re doing the camp thing. I like the team format a little bit better. The only thing wrong with camps is that it’s nothing new. You see the UFC, and it’s Pat Miletich’s camp versus American Top Team. So the IFL’s not doing anything new. The other format was more unique, where you could get a city behind you.

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Are you happy with the IFL or are you eyeing another organization?
I’m not really gunning for any organization. The IFL, they treat you like any other promoter, you know? You’re just a fighter. But I’m headed for number one, and wherever that is, if there’s any way to make myself number one in the world, that’s where I want to go.

Do you fight full-time now?
I still work. I own a clothing line (108 Clothing and Dragon Skinz) like most fighters, and I teach occasionally.

Who’s your favorite fighter?
Urijah Faber. He gets beat up and keeps going. I like that “Rocky” stuff where a fighter just gets beat up and comes back.

Since you’re a Vegas guy, we have to ask: How was Celine Dion’s show at Caesar’s Palace?
I didn’t see it (laughs). Bette Midler just replaced her, so maybe I’ll have to catch that.