With ‘Handcuffs Off’ After UFC Departure, Roy Nelson Sees Many Opportunities in Bellator

By Tristen Critchfield Sep 19, 2017

Although he doesn’t have the most sparkling record in recent years, Roy Nelson remains one of the most recognizable heavyweights in mixed martial arts.

Now that “Big Country” has left the UFC following a 19-bout tenure for Bellator MMA, he believes he can convert even more fans to his brand of action thanks to the platform that the new promotion provides.

“Why do you think UFC has been dying? Because they’re on Fox, Fox Sports 1 or whatever. Viacom is always on the edge because they have MTV, they have Spike, they’re switching over to Paramount,” Nelson told Sherdog.com. “They’re all about changing with the times. They always bring in new demographics. How many women actually watch Spike TV? I think women actually watch ‘Cops’ or ‘Bar Rescue.’ But then you ask them have you ever tuned into Fox Sports 1, they’d be like, ‘Hell no.’

“In other words, what Spike does is they bring in a whole new demographic. That brings in the casual fan. The casual fan that doesn’t actually watch fights, that’s the fan that I’m gonna turn them into watching MMA. That’s one thing I do really well is I turn a casual fan into an MMA fan.”

Nelson will make his promotional debut against Javy Ayala at Bellator 183 on Saturday night. Bellator 183 takes place at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., and is headlined by a lightweight duel between Benson Henderson and Patricky Freire. The evening’s main card airs on Spike at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.

Nelson, who won just three of his last 11 Octagon appearances, is looking forward to establishing himself in Bellator’s heavyweight division.

“I think the heavyweight division in Bellator is pretty stacked. You have former UFC guys, from Cheick Kongo to Matt Mitrione. You also have the legend, Fedor,” Nelson said. “The one thing about [Bellator President Scott Coker] is he always brings in new talent. Somebody like Javy, you never even heard of Javy and he knocked out Sergei [Kharitonov].”

The 29-year-old Ayala did indeed author one of 2016’s biggest upsets, knocking the Pride Fighting Championships veteran Kharitonov in just 16 seconds at Bellator 163 on Nov. 4. The California native is 5-2 during his tenure with the California-based organization, and he has finished all but one of his 10 career triumphs inside the distance.

“I was excited [about the matchup] because it’s a guy that wants to bring it and tries to throw thunder,” Nelson said. “When guys are throwing thunder it definitely creates lightning.”

Eventually, Nelson does have dreams of championship gold in Bellator, but those aren’t his only aspirations.

“My long-term [goal] is is definitely win the belt. Maybe go into commentating, maybe start a Roy Nelson Bellator TV show on Spike,” he said. “With the handcuffs off, now anything’s possible. That’s what I’m excited about.”

As for what type of programming he’d like to be involved with, Nelson doesn’t yet have one specific thing in mind. Instead, he sees multiple intriguing possibilities, something he didn’t have while under contract with the UFC.

“There’s a couple different TV shows. We could do me building a house, cooking you a dinner. I could teach you how to fight,” Nelson said. “I could teach you how to make money with different businesses. You could see me on CNBC. There’s a whole bunch…the opportunities now are [more] where you’re not gonna get railroaded from the other side.”


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