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New-look Nik Lentz bringing some attitude to main card

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

One thing that Nik Lentz has been since moving down to 145 pounds is dominant. He has gone 3-0 as a featherweight, which has -- through a confluence of merit and timing -- afforded him the opportunity to face perennial contender Chad Mendes at UFC on FOX 9 on Dec. 14 in Sacramento.

Win that fight, and "The Carny" enters the rarified space of title talk.

One thing Nik Lentz has not been? Outspoken. Never one to smite his own chest or call out opponents and engage in smack talk of any kind, Lentz surprised a lot of people last month when he shot back at Irish star Conor McGregor, who had essentially taken potshots at every 145-pounder on the UFC’s roster via his Twitter feed.

"Slow your stroll, sonnyboy," Lentz told Bloody Elbow in response to McGregor. "Beat a few guys before you start sounding off. You had the perfect venue, a receptive crowd [in Boston], and all the time in the world to prepare. And what did you do? What did you prove? You landed every punch you know how to throw and the guy didn’t blink."

The tirade went on from there. Since moving to featherweight, and relocating from his home state of Minnesota to Florida to train at American Top Team, Lentz has been undergoing a transformation. Most noticeably, he’s got a little edge. As a lifetime preliminarist, maybe that’s a good thing. His ability to sell a fight is finally catching up to his skills in the cage.

At Thursday’s UFC on FOX 9 press conference, the new look Lentz was at it again. When asked if it felt good to get a slot on the main card of a nationally broadcast fight, he took the opportunity to update everyone on the changes.

"It feels really good, especially since I moved down to 145 pounds, I’m a completely different person," he said. "You know, people don’t know it yet is I’m going to be the hardest guy that Chad’s ever fought. That’s guaranteed -- and that includes Jose Aldo.

‘When it comes to this fight, I’m super-excited about it. [The UFC] called me, I already had a fight scheduled. They said there’s an opportunity, and maybe we could get you to fight Chad Mendes if you want it. I told them, sign it up, whatever I’ve got to do. Whatever I’ve got to sign, sign it up. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this on the main card, to show that I’m a brand new person since changing to American Top Team at 145 pounds, I’m telling you guys -- I’m the man at 145 pounds. Nobody’s going to stop me in here."

Lentz was slated to fight Dennis Bermudez in November, but was pulled out of that matchup for the higher profile fight with Mendes. As a lightweight in the UFC, Lentz began 5-0-1 before suffering a loss to Charles Oliveira, which was later converted into a "no contest" in 2011 (illegal knee). He then dropped his next two fights at 155 pounds to Mark Bocek and Evan Dunham, which prompted the move to featherweight.