On November 11 in Lubbock, Texas, Lashley will face TUF 10 contestant Darrill Schoonover for the Shark Fights heavyweight title, the former pro wrestler told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. It will be the first in his multi-fight deal with the Shark Fights organization, and Lashley hopes it will help build him back up after his short, unimpressive stay in Strikeforce.
"I believe [Strikeforce CEO Scott] Coker said this, he said he doesn't believe that I want it," Lashley said. "...I have all the respect in the world for Coker, and he may have been right. Maybe I wasn't ready for Strikeforce at the time. ...I didn't have everything together and I wasn't training the way I should have."
Lashley won his Strikeforce debut over journeyman heavyweight Wes Sims, but in his second bout with the organization he was undone by exhaustion against Chad Griggs. After starting strong against Griggs, Lashley suffered a cut and was later barely able to pick himself off the mat at the end of round two, prompting a stoppage that put the first blemish on his professional record.
Back then, Lashley said, he thought he was in shape, but with the help of a new strength and conditioning coach he recently learned that "I was just in the wrong kind of shape."
That was a little over a year ago, and Lashley rebounded in March with a win over John Ott in the Titan FC organization, but he still hasn't given up on the prospect of a rematch with Griggs.
"I would like to get that fight against Griggs some day," Lashley said. "That's one thing that still burns in my stomach, is having that loss on my record."
Another fight Lashley wouldn't mind is one with fellow WWE alum Dave Bautista, who was at one point rumored to be making his MMA debut in Strikeforce. That coming out party never materialized, but now that Lashley is with Shark Fights and Bautista is unsigned, Lashley has some ideas about how they could make it happen on a limited budget.
"If we do the fight, let's do winner-take-all. Let's put one purse up there, winner takes all," said Lashley, who acknowledged that a bout between two former pro wrestlers might not be well received by every fight fan.
"I'd love to fight Dave. I guess that's a super fight and that's a fight for maybe the wrestling fans. I don't know how well the MMA community would take it. I guess they would just sort of shrug their shoulders and say, 'whatever,' but I know it's a fight that a lot of wrestling fans would love to see."
As for his long-term future in the sport, Lashley said he remains committed to proving that he is a serious fighter, and not just a pro wrestler dabbling in MMA. His conditioning program has been adjusted to meet the demands of the sport, he said, and he's spent a lot of time working on his stand-up skills and increasing his sparring load, despite not sparring at all before his last two fights.
"I think it's good for me to get back there and try to prove myself. That's what I'd like to do. I'm not one to fight what someone else says about me. It's better to go out there and prove that, hey, I want to fight. I'm here, I'm taking this seriously, and I do want it," said Lashley.
Ultimately, he said, he'd like to get back in the big leagues, which is easier said than done.
"I want to get some fights in and I want to really prove myself in front of these guys, so that I can have that door open and maybe go back with Strikeforce or maybe talk to Dana White later on and get up there and do some big things and show what I'm really capable of doing," he said.
Beating Schoonover wouldn't be a bad start. But considering Schoonover's 1-4 record since losing to James McSweeney in the TUF 10 Finale, it would most likely be the first step in a long journey.
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