(photo courtesy Sherdog)
Don’t be fooled by Bobby Lashley’s pro wrestling past. He’s a real athlete. He is a three-time NAIA National Wrestling Champion. He joined the Army where he continued to excel in wrestling. And in 2003, he was on his way to a spot on the US Olympic Wrestling Team when he suffered a knee injury that would derail his dream and lead him to the WWE. In 2008, no longer able to ignore his desire for non-scripted competition, Lashley started a career in the world of mixed martial arts. He has amassed a 5-0 record and has quickly become one of the sport’s most interesting prospects. And for now, pro wrestling has taken a back seat for this 6′ 3″, 250 pound behemoth as he has made the choice to leave the squared circle in an attempt to take his MMA game to the next level. Heavy.com’s Matt Brown caught up with Lashley to discuss the move – and a weird van ride with Rampage Jackson and King Mo.
Heavy.com: What have you been up to since the Wes Sims…fight?
Lashley: (laughs) I’ve just been training. Things are great. I didn’t really take any damage at all.
Heavy.com: Do you feel you got anything out of that fight?
Lashely: I didn’t get out of it what I wanted to get out of it. I wanted to have someone that I could stand and trade punches with. That was my ultimate goal. I’ve been working a lot on my stand up. But it’s a fight. He has 22 wins in the sport. It is two guys over 200 pounds with four ounce gloves on. I was confident, but cautious.
Heavy.com: A lot of the fans might not realize that you were not afforded the luxury of amateur fights.
Lashley: Yeah man. This is a learning process here. That’s why I’m trying to take this as slowly as possible, even though I’m kinda being pushed a little faster than I want to. That fight [with Sims], man, a win is a win. I knew I could take him down. There were a lot of shots early that I saw that I pulled away from because I wanted to stand and swing. But then I just took him down. I feel comfortable there. I feel comfortable that if I take someone down, I can finish the fight.
Heavy.com: You mentioned you’ve been spending a lot of time on your stand up. Is that the focus of your MMA training right now since you are so confident in your wrestling?
Lashley: No. Absolutely not. I think that this early in the game, I’ve got to concentrate on every aspect of fighting. I’ve got the [US Wrestling] Olympic Training Center right down the street, so I’m going to make it over there more and train with those guys. I’m trying to be well-rounded. I like boxing. I like punching and kicking, doing mit and bag work, sparring. But I do not neglect my wrestling. I spend a lot of time on my wrestling still. I try and spread my time pretty evenly.
Heavy.com: How do you split up the training between your gym in Denver and ATT in Florida?
Lashley: I stay here in Denver and do a lot of my training. I have lots of great training partners and coaches up here. But in the last couple months leading up to a fight, I travel back and forth, doing several trips to Coconut Creek.
Heavy.com: On to pro wrestling, do you feel like your pro wrestling fans have followed you over to MMA and vice versa?
Lashley: It’s kinda weird. It seems like it is almost the same fans. I like to keep in touch with my fans, so I hear it all. ‘You should only fight. You should come back to professional wrestling.’ So I don’t know who is watching me where, but as long as they are there. I love my fans and I’ll never turn my back on my pro wrestling fans and I’m very happy to have new MMA fans as well.
Heavy.com: You were recently ‘fired’ as part of the story line on an episode of TNA Wrestling. Does this mean you are going to focus on MMA full time?
Lashley: I believe so.
Heavy.com: So, at least for the time being, Bobby Lashley is solely a mixed martial artist?
Heavy.com: All these short answers! Give me the skinny.
Lashley: (laughs) I don’t really know much man. I had a talk with the guys a while back about doing both. Everything seemed to be working well. I think maybe there were some complications there towards the end. I got back home and got all these calls from people saying that I had been released from wrestling. So as far as I know, I’ve been released, so yes, I can focus full time on MMA.
Heavy.com: This will probably break some hearts, but make a lot of MMA fans happy.
Lashley: This is a crazy sport. I love this sport. It is one of those things that you have to pour your heart into it. And I have to concentrate on the training in order to make it to where I want to make it in MMA.
Heavy.com: Any insight as to an opponent for the big CBS show in April?
Lashley: Maybe Lashley and Wes Sims 2! No, really, I don’t even know 100% I’m on the card! But Strikeforce knows how I train. I train constantly, all year. They can give me a fight on a couple weeks notice and I’ll be ready. I’m definitely training and will be ready for April.
Heavy.com: And finally, there is a video on YouTube where you found yourself in a van with Rampage and King Mo. Things got a little heated and the camera pans to you at one point and you can do nothing but smile and shake your head. What was going on there?
Lashley: (laughs) I’ve known Mo for a long time. I’ve known Mo from back at the Olympic Training Center days. And Mo is a very talented guy, but he loves to talk. At first, it seemed like a joke. We were at a signing and Mo wrote “Bum page” on one of Rampage’s pictures. He wrote something on one of mine too, but I know Mo, so I didn’t think anything of it. But I see Rampage start to brew over it. Then we got in the van to go home and it got a little heated. A little stuff here and there. And then all of the sudden, I kinda sensed Mo was serious too. It was a trip. I just sat there and smiled. No need to get involved in that craziness.
Heavy.com: Thanks for the time Bobby. Good luck with the move to MMA full time. We know the MMA community will be buzzing.
Lashley: No problem man.