Lashley: 'I Can Match Up with Any Heavyweight Right Now'

He’s been wrestling for 18 years and won three national amateur wrestling titles at Missouri Valley College from 1996-1998. He’s an Armed Forces champion as well, but that’s not how most people know Bobby Lashley.

Wrestling for the WWE for three years seems to take center stage, but that’s a distinction Lashley hopes will take a backseat after joining American Top Team.

“Coming into MMA, I just wanted to make sure people realize that I’m coming in this for real and I want to be known as a fighter that used to be a professional wrestler as opposed to a professional wrestler that’s now fighting,” Lashley told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” last week. “So when I came to American Top Team that was my way of showing dedication to these MMA guys because it’s still an appreciation factor. I appreciate a lot of the guys out there and I hope they appreciate that I’m taking the necessary steps. I’m learning the techniques.”

Lashley said he’s ready to put in the time, and hopes fans recognize it.

“I’m fighting the necessary shows and learning how to box, learning kickboxing, muay Thai, jiu-jitsu and tying it all together,” he said. “Now I’m going out to be an MMA fighter and I hope people appreciate that and not just bad mouth me because I used to be a professional wrestler.”

In his MMA debut last December, Lashley dispatched of Joshua Franklin in 41 seconds via a technical knockout from a cut at the Mixed Fight Alliance in Miami. He has since signed on for two fights with the Palace Fighting Championships and will be taking on Mike Hayes on Feb. 6 at the Tachi Palace and Casino in Lemoore, Calif.

Lashley, another hulking figure at 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds, seems to be moving at the appropriate pace. Yet, with another former WWE champion in Brock Lesnar making recent waves with his UFC heavyweight championship victory over Randy Couture, many wonder how soon it will be before Lashley signs on with the UFC as well.

“I think it’s not going to be my decision or my manager’s decision,” said Lashley. “Ultimately, it’s going to be Dana White’s decision. I think they understand what I’m doing right now. I’m not just trying to jump in there right away. If we jumped in there right now it’s just a professional wrestler fighting. I want to feel comfortable in the ring and I want to build myself up. I want to be an established MMA fighter, than take on those big fights.”

Lashley, 32, said he has a list of goals he’s tackling one by one.

"As far as a timeline, that first fight was short, but I did get a lot of checks that I wanted,” he said. “Seeing that door close was check number one. Next thing is this guy coming up (Mike Hayes) -- he’s a striker. That will be another check. We’re going to try and go bigger and bigger and bigger. So whenever Dana White is ready for us, we’re going to be doing the necessary things to progress and be ready to step in there.”

That’s not to say Lashley doesn’t believe he can’t step into the Octagon right now.

“I think I’d do real well against a lot of those guys because they’re heavyweights and I’m a heavyweight also,” Lashley said. “At the lighter weights there are a lot of things to consider. At heavyweight some of those things get taken out of the equation. So at heavyweight you’re going to have brawlers, guys with good takedowns and decent submissions. Right now I have those. I think that I can go match up with almost any heavyweight right now.”

Coming from a world of steel chairs and cage matches isn’t something new. How does Lashley separate himself from that other former WWE wrestler?

“Fight him,” said Lashley. “There’s no real reason to separate myself from him. He’s at the top of the totem pole right now. He’s a champ. Myself and every other heavyweight in this business wants to be the best, and to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Right now the best is Brock. I don’t think there’s going to be too much separation between the two of us. My eye is still going to be on the target whether it be fighting Brock or whoever the champ is at the time. I’m sure we’ll meet some time.”

And how will that bout play out?

“I would like for Bobby Lashley to be victorious by way of knockout,” Lashley said. “Everyone wants something like that. But we’re not just going to steer completely away from the wrestling. It will turn into a wrestling match. But at the same token he’s been training jiu-jitsu as I have and we’ve both been training standup. So I think it’s just going to be a brawl. We’re both two big athletic heavyweights with quick hands, hard punches and quick takedowns. It’s going to be a brawl.”
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