With no fans in the building, there’s no need to please the crowd.
Roy Nelson heads into Bellator 244 on the worst skid of his career, with four consecutive losses under the Bellator MMA banner. His last win came over Javy Ayala in 2017, but “Big Country” isn’t ready to call it a career just yet.
“It’s one of those things, as long as I’m competitive, I’m okay with [whatever]. I know where I stand in the whole heavyweight division in the world, from UFC to Bellator to ONE FC to the whole nine yards,” he said Wednesday during the Bellator 244 media day. “As long as I’m competitive, I keep doing what I’m doing.”
To be fair, Nelson (23-18), always a fan favorite for his knockout ability, has lost some close decisions in his current slump. Including a controversial majority decision loss against Matt Mitrione in the heavyweight grand prix.
But it’s not the losing streak that may change his fighting style this Friday. It’s the lack of fans in the arena, something Nelson first experienced as part of The Ultimate Fighter.
“It changes your fight style. Because you’re not going out there and making sure you’re pleasing the fans. So you’re just going out there and getting the W any way you know how,” Nelson said when asked about fighting in an empty venue.
With fans in the building, fighting becomes like rock n’ roll, believes Nelson. You’re not just concerned with the best performance, but making sure everybody’s happy. Without spectators, however, “you can stick to a game plan better.”
It’s not that his mindset has changed completely, mind you. “Big Country” has always been about entertaining. But with the pandemic, things are a bit different. “The fans are the ones that pay the bills, but it’s different when it’s live. They’re not paying the bills now. Now it’s TV stuff. It’s a little bit different now,” Nelson stated. “You just go out and win. That’s all that matters, because that’s all that matters to the network.”
Should he pick up a win over Valentin Moldavsky, a rising Russian prospect training alongside Fedor Emelianenko, Nelson will earn himself some breathing room. And a fight with Fedor could be an opportunity down the road, given what a win over one of his proteges would mean.
“I’ve always wanted to fight Fedor,” admitted Nelson. “But if I get past Moldavsky, or when I do, I think it’s time for me to actually start picking who I want to fight, versus just taking whoever they want to give me.”
As to who his choices would be, “There’s fights that I want and people I want to beat up,” answered Nelson. “Fedor is number one. One of those legacy ones. Matt Mitrione, I just want to beat him up and make some money.”
“Cheick Kongo would be another. Cheick’s right there, he just fought for the belt last,” Nelson added. Roy has a memorable knockout of Kongo from back in the pair’s UFC days. “I’d like to give him the chance to knock me out now.”
Bellator 244 takes place this Friday, August 21 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The main card airs live on Paramount Network and DAZN.