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Bobby Lashley willing to fight Kimbo Slice, but won't call out his 'friend'

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bobby Lashley could be on the verge of the biggest fight of his MMA career. Just don't expect him to call for it.

Kimbo Slice, the biggest television ratings draw in mixed martial arts history, is booked for a big Bellator event Feb. 19 in Houston, according to a report last week from the Houston Chronicle. Slice's opponent likely has not yet been decided, but Bellator president Scott Coker said on The MMA Hour recently that the winner of Friday's fight between Lashley and James Thompson could get the nod.

Lashley, 39, considers Slice a friend. The two both have ties to American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., though Lashley does most of his training out of his ATT affiliate in Colorado. Lashley said after his win over with Dan Charles at Bellator 138 in June, he hung around to cheer on Slice during his bout with Ken Shamrock, an eventual first-round knockout.

The former WWE and current TNA star would not say no if a fight with Slice is offered. But he will not ask for it or talk any trash.

"I'm friends with Kimbo," Lashley told MMA Fighting. "I'm friends with him. As far as matchmaking, I don't really play into that. If they talk and the powers that be over at Bellator have a conversation and they say they wanted to do it and they talk to Kimbo and Kimbo is up for it, I'm not gonna say I would decline it. At the end of the day, we want to make as much money as possible. But I'm never gonna call him out. That's not my style. And I like the guy."

A bout between Slice and Lashley would be a high-profile one. It'll surely draw big-time ratings, especially given Slice's immense popularity and Lashley's crossover fans from pro wrestling. However, Lashley has other goals. He wants a title shot more than any big-money fight.

"Because I have money," Lashley said. "Money is not it for me. I love to travel and take care of my kids and be around my children. I don't spoil myself on extravagant cars or spending money on jewelry. So I save a lot of the money I have."

His main concern, outside of Thompson at Bellator 145 on Friday in St. Louis, is the situation surrounding Vitaly Minakov, the reigning Bellator heavyweight champion. Minakov has not competed for Bellator since April 2014 and has fought twice since then for the Fight Nights promotion in Russia. Coker has been mostly mum about his future status. Until Minakov returns or a decision is made to strip him, the belt is tied up. Lashley isn't so happy about it.

"I think every heavyweight in the division has talked to them about that," Lashley said. "We want to know what's going on. Because ultimately, we're sitting around fighting each other, but are we fighting each other just to be fighting? Or is there some kind of end-all? And the end-all, be-all is, of course, the title. And if that title is nowhere around, then yes, we're all saying, 'Hey, let us know what's going on?' Are we moving up the ranks so everybody can fight for second place or what's the deal?"

Lashley (13-2), though, won't be issuing any ultimatums or anything of the sport.

"But we can't pressure Bellator," he said. "Coker is an incredible owner, promoter, manager. He's amazing all around. So nobody is going to sit there and say, 'You gotta do this, you gotta do that.' He takes care of us really well. But at the end of the day, we'd like to know if this guy is going to come to the United States and fight and if he's gonna fight one of us heavyweights."

As far as a title shot, Lashley said it "has to" happen in 2016. He's nearing 40 years old and understands that his MMA career is a finite one. Lashley said that he could continue on with pro wrestling for another decade, but realistically he might only be fighting for another two to three years at the most.

One of the things that he really wants to accomplish before hanging up the gloves for good is holding a title. Lashley has designs on being the TNA champion and Bellator champion at the same time.

"Overall in my career, I think it would just be a good little staple to say, hey I was able to hold two titles at once, which I don't think would ever happen again," Lashley said. "I think it would just be cool to say and cool to have."

The first step would, of course, be beating Thompson on Friday night. This rematch (Thompson beat Lashley in 2012) has been booked two times previously. Lashley knows Thompson is a name he needs under his belt to get a crack at gold.

"I don't think Dan Charles has the credibility that they give Thompson," Lashley said. "Now, if those two fought I don't know what would happen, because Dan Charles, his last fight, had a knockout. So he is a tough kid. I just smothered him at the time and didn't give him an opportunity to do anything. I think Thompson just because of his name would give me a little bit of a boost."

The name "Kimbo Slice" wouldn't hurt, either.