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Ex-IFL Champion Roy Nelson Proves 'Big Country' Means Big Business

2009 isn't over yet, but if you're wondering who my landslide choice for MMA businessman of the year is, it's already Roy Nelson.

Consider the fact that six short months ago Nelson was fighting on the undercard of the forgettable Roy Jones-Omar Sheika MMA/boxing pay-per-view and now he is a few hours away from being featured on what is shaping up to be the most watched telecast in UFC history.

Of course, that has a lot to do with the fact that Kimbo Slice is fighting on tonight's episode of The Ultimate Fighter, but make no mistake about it: Nelson's involvement in the fight makes this episode that much bigger. And should the former IFL heavyweight champion defeat Slice on Wednesday night, Nelson's life will change forever. Just ask Sean Gannon and Seth Petruzelli what beating Slice can do for your career.

When Nelson was a guest on a recent edition of The MMA Hour, he said that trying out for TUF was "the sucky route" into the UFC, but it made absolute dollars and sense.

"The decision to go that route was definitely a business decision," Nelson said.

"When I found out Kimbo was going to be on the show, I thought it was awesome just because it's going to be the most watched season, and you know what? I'm on this season, so it's a benefit for me because people watching him are going to be watching me. It's just more exposure, more fan base. It's just better business sense all the way around. So I'm just glad to be a part of it."

Given the UFC's new free agent signing spree, it's likely that Nelson would have made his way into the organization at some point in his career. But had that happened, he would have probably been forced to fight on a couple untelevised undercards before getting a shot against a mid-level heavyweight on pay-per-view or Spike. He could have also finished his career making a solid living fighting for Strikeforce or in Japan.

Instead, he took a gamble by entering the show when he was clearly the most overqualified cast member and he's now competing in the biggest fight in TUF history.

There had been rumors in the past that the UFC wasn't high on Nelson due to his look, but the former IFL heavyweight champion has set himself up to get the last laugh. Of course, if he loses to Slice, he will forever be known as the former champion who lost to the street fighter. That would be a shame for the veteran. But for the next few hours, at least, Roy Nelson is one of the most talked about fighters in MMA.

Funny how things work out.

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