Bobby Lashley file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
HOUSTON -- There’s a silver lining to the criticisms made about Bobby Lashley’s recent inactivity. They do show that there is a bona fide interest in the budding heavyweight, who enters his sixth professional bout against Chad Griggs at Strikeforce “Houston” Saturday at the Toyota Center following a seven-month layoff.
Lashley, who was sidelined from sinus surgery and a bruised knee bone in the first half of 2010, has shown a growing interest in quelling his critics’ claims.
After a year’s feeling-out period with the sport, Lashley made two crucial decisions that supported his recent development as a fighter. In January, the former WWE heavyweight champion said goodbye to a part-time wrestling career with TNA wrestling. Then, he branched out from the security of his ATT Altitude gym in Denver and sought out additional training partners.
UFC heavyweight contender Cain Velasquez and Strikeforce up-and-comer Daniel Cormier are two fighters that Lashley made a connection with at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif.
“I love my gym, but we don’t have too many professional fighters there,” said Lashley at a press conference on Thursday. “We have a lot of guys who are just coming in to learn the game, but I bring a lot of guys to bring in to train with.”
In Velasquez and Cormier, Lashley found a common bond in the shared wrestler’s mentality to work until you drop.
“Heavyweights don’t like to work too, too hard,” said Lashley. “They like to work, then rest. When you work with someone like Cormier or Cain, they like to train hard everyday, so it was a good atmosphere.”
The 34-year-old father of one credits his athleticism with his recent strides in striking and groundwork.
“My striving’s been coming along real well and I feel really comfortable on the ground,” said Lashley, a two-time collegiate wrestling champion. “I had the opportunity to roll a lot of high-level jiu-jitsu guys and I think I’m well-versed right now and only going to get better.”
Factoring in intense strength and conditioning sessions in the Colorado Mountains and Lashley’s growing enthusiasm for the sport, his appearance in the Strikeforce cage on Saturday should reveal a more evolved version of the one-dimensional wrestler who easily pummeled an overmatched Wes Sims to a first-round stoppage January in Miami.
“I’m opening up everything,” said Lashley. “For this one, I’m really, really ready. I know everybody says that coming into a fight, but man, I’ve been training really hard for this one.”
And in the heavy-handed Griggs, Lashley might have the opportunity to unveil the fruits of countless recently-clocked sparring hours. However, like his career, he won’t be rushed into anything he feels he’s not prepared for.
“What I want to do with my career is move forward and move forward the right away,” said Lashley. “I only have five right now and I think I’m moving in the right direction.”