Roy Nelson has always been pretty good at making waves in and out of fighting, and he did it again recently when he applied for the open executive director position at the Nevada Athletic Commission after Keith Kizer resigned.
Though plenty met this with derision -- including UFC president Dana White, who said Nelson "wouldn’t get a job if he applied at Kinko’s" --"Big Country" realizes it’s a free country, and he’s always marched to his own drummer.
But what many wanted to know is, just how seriously was the still-active heavyweight, the one who rubs his belly like Buddha after victories? Nelson appeared on the Monday edition of The MMA Hour, and he said he was pretty damn serious.
"Yeah, I’m always interested in furthering our sport," he told host Ariel Helwani. "Like, I would love to be a correspondent newsperson, somebody who informs the fans a little bit more and able to bring a little more closure to our sport where it’s more of a black and white as opposed to the gray area."
Nelson was among over 300 applicants for the NAC executive director position, a number that is being whittled down based on a criterion that hasn’t been made 100 percent clear. When asked if he’d heard anything back from the commission, he said not yet.
"They are reviewing applications was the last I heard," he said.
Nelson, who fights Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on April 11 in the UFC’s return to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, said that if he were hired into the position he’d try and bring a more definitive understanding of the scoring system, which has been under dense scrutiny for years.
When asked if he would retire from fighting to be the head of the Nevada Athletic Commission, Nelson proved elusive. After coyly stepping around the question, he shrugged that he "can always circle back to that wagon."
And on the topic of fighting, Nelson made it clear he was far from done. One of the perceived shortcomings of the 37-year-old’s career has been his inability to fight for a title. Nelson attributed this to some earlier decisions in the mid-aughts, right when the UFC was taking off. He said that back then he’d just "chosen to do my own thing, and go the route that I wanted to go."
Having won The Ultimate Fighter 10, which drew the highest ratings of the franchise, Nelson did say he thought that he’d already left a mark on the fight game, even if his career were to end today. When asked what that mark is, he pointed to his proving of the old cliché to never judge a book by its cover.
"I think just more that it’s okay for fighters to have a self-esteem," he said. "I think I’ve kind of shown that that’s okay. And as long as you put the hard work in you can accomplish anything."
With all the talk about heading the NAC, and the types of things he would change, the topic of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) was brought up. Nelson, who is in the age bracket that some MMA fighters start filing for therapeutic use exemptions, said he has never taken it himself, but that he’s been offered or advised to "many of times."
And, even if he didn’t definitively state his moral attitude towards TRT, he did say (somewhat vaguely) that he’s at least given it some thought.
"Always considering it," he said. "Always considering what the commission gives you, but no…for the most part it is what it is."
Nelson last fought at UFC 166 in Houston back in October against Daniel Cormier. He lost a lopsided decision in a fairly nondescript fight, something that he predicted would be the case -- almost with a sense of foreboding -- heading in. Afterwards he voiced his displeasure with Cormier for not engaging him.
Asked if he’d since changed his mind after having watched the fight, Nelson stood his ground, saying that Cormier wasn’t exactly willing to excite spectator enthusiasm.
"I definitely watched it -- it wasn’t the engagement that I like when I consider fighting," he said. "[Cormier] did his job, like I knew he was going to do, I just wanted it to be…kind of like Big Nog is going to be a guy, he’s old school, he’s a fighter. He’s going to put on a show for the fans. I guess there’s a showmanship in fighting.
"Cormier was more of technician, very technical. He’s going to take some time off the clock. He’s like football, where all they’re going to do is run, run, run, run. There’s not going to be a pass."
When asked if he thought Cormier was boring, Nelson didn’t use the word outright -- but he came as close as possible.
"I don’t prefer to watch his style," he said. "I like it from a technical standpoint, but from that hardcore fighter standpoint where I want to see someone go out in a blaze of glory, he’s not going to be that guy. If he’s up two rounds, he’s going to play it safe. Stuff like that."
Should Nelson lose to Nogueira in April, it will mark the first time in his 28-fight career that he lost three bouts in a row (he lost to Stipe Miocic via unanimous decision at UFC 161). He was in a similar situation back in 2011 after back-to-back losses to Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir -- losses that started the choruses of him moving to light heavyweight -- but was able to rebound against Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 137, whom he knocked out in the third round.