Bobby Lashley’s career trajectory from World World Entertainment performer to mixed martial arts competitor has been very different than that of Brock Lesnar. While Lesnar jumped into the fire early in his career an in effort to prove himself, Lashley has been methodical and patient in building his skills against lower-tier opponents. But as Lashley tells Heavy.com in this exclusive interview, those days will soon be over.
Heavy.com: I’ll start out by asking about the TNA (pro wrestling) aspect of your career. How are things going with Hulk Hogan coming in?
Bobby Lashley: Well, the thing is that it’s competition. Before, WWE had their day and TNA had their day. WWE has always been a position of power. They’ve had more shows, more total dates and more stars. They could do more things. But now? I think it was a bold move to go up against Raw, to bring in Hogan and Bischoff and Hall and everyone else.
I think it’s great. I think it’s going to bring the level of wrestling up. I think they fans are really going to benefit. They’re going to get a lot more than they expect because both shows are really going to have to step up their game. It’s a real competition now.
Heavy.com: Yeah, you guys did a much better TV rating than anyone expected for last Monday’s show. Is that exciting?
Bobby Lashley: Oh, yeah. I think we did a 1.9 for one of the hours?
Heavy.com: That’s pretty good considering most people expected you to do around a 1.0 or less.
Bobby Lashley: Yeah, they are used to doing something like a 0.9. To get the jump like that and to gain more viewers is always a good thing.
Heavy.com: Have you heard if TNA will be taking the show to Monday nights on a regular basis?
Bobby Lashley: I’m not sure what they’re planning to do. I don’t know for a fact, but I’m hoping that the long-term plan is to go ahead and reignite the Monday Night Wars. I’m sure Bischoff and Hogan would like to see that. And if those two want something done, it’s probably going to happen.
Heavy.com: The history of mixed martial arts hasn’t been kind to professional wrestlers who try to fight while maintaining a wrestling career. How are you going to succeed at both?
Bobby Lashley: How am I going to succeed at both? That’s a tough question. I think that the only way to succeed at both is to really dedicate yourself fully. TNA is a different type of schedule than the WWE. We all know that. So it’s going to be a lot easier for me. I do have a serious dedication to TNA, but my obligation to them is only for four or five days a month. So I think that because of that schedule, I can dedicate myself equally to both. It’s five days a month for pro wrestling and TNA, and the other twenty five days are dedicated solely to mixed martial arts. So I think it’s going to be great.
Now, a little farther down the line? I have my sights set on Fedor Emelianenko, because he’s the best in the world. Alistair Overeem is the champion, and Fabricio Werdum is one of the top guys in the world. When we get to the point where I’m fighting those guys, I’m probably going to have to pull back a little bit from wrestling and focus on my fights a little bit more. But for right now? I think I’m good to go and I think everyone will work out.
Heavy.com: How long until you’re ready to face guys like Alistair and Fedor?
Bobby Lashley: I’m already ready for them.
Heavy.com: You’re ready for them now?
Bobby Lashley: Well, you know what I mean. It’s going to take some time. I’m only four fights into this thing, so I have to wait a little bit. My coaches are always trying to pull me back. It’s a learning process. In MMA, it doesn’t matter if you have four fights or you have thirty fights. It’s still a learning process. I only have four fights. So we still want to work on a few more things. I want to work on my standup a little bit more. I haven’t used that much in real life situations, so I want to put myself into a couple of matches where I get to stand up with these guys.
I want to test myself in a few different ways, and then we’ll be ready for it. I’m thinking maybe two or three more fights, and I’ll be ready for that competition.
Heavy.com: When you sat down with Scott Coker, did he give you any sort of plan as far as TV fights go? Will you be on CBS any time soon?
Bobby Lashley: Yeah. I think what we’re going to do the fight on the 30th in Miami, and then turn around and do the April 19th fight on CBS. I told them I wanted to stay active. If they want to give me six fights this year, I’ll take six fights this year. I need more fights under my belt so that when that big fight comes, I’m ready for it.
Heavy.com: Dana White is adamant that his guys are not going to do pro wrestling and MMA at the same time. How does Scott feel about it?
Bobby Lashley: I think Scott’s thing is that if I can do it, I can do it. You know what I mean? If it becomes a problem for either side, we’ll have to sit down and talk about it. But for now, Scott knows that I am completely dedicated to fighting. So he’s checking my schedule. I keep him up to date on what I have scheduled with TNA. And right now, he’s cool with it. But after the April 19th fight, we’re going to look at my schedule and see if TNA is causing any conflicts. If it’s not causing any problems, I’m going to keep doing it.
Heavy.com: When Heavy.com talked to Nate Marquardt last year, he mentioned some type of falling out between you and the guys from his camp. What happened there, or do you even know?
Bobby Lashley: I didn’t think there was a falling out at all. Brandon Schaub still texts me and calls me, and we talk from time to time. The main issue, I think, is that some camps are very loyal to their people. They don’t like to mix up camps and change things up. And I think that’s what it was. When I came to Denver, I talked to Nate and I told him what my deal was. I told him that traveling down to American Top Team was kind of tough for me because my kids are in Denver, and it’s hard getting away. I was going down there for weeks at a time and being away from my kids.
So Nate told me I could come over there and train with his guys. At that time, a lot of those guys were getting ready to go different places. Schaub was getting ready for Ultimate Fighter. Shane Carwin was either having a surgery or had just come back from surgery. I loved training there, but everyone was either leaving or preparing to leave and I had a fight coming up. So I flew back down to ATT in Florida. And I think that may have been the thing that upset Marquardt, that I went to a different camp instead of staying there. But I had to go where I had training partners. I had to get ready for a fight.
Heavy.com: That makes sense.
Bobby Lashley: Yeah. I have no hard feelings for those guys. A lot of those guys are still my friends. I always hold them in high regard and I still talk to a lot of them. Brandon Schaub calls me quite a bit and we text a lot. If nothing else, we have a Colorado bond, so I’m always going to pull for those guys.
Heavy.com: When you signed with Strikeforce, were you courting offers from the UFC? Did they ever appear to be serious about approaching you and bringing you in?
Bobby Lashley: I’m not really sure on that. I usually let my manager deal with that. Lately I’ve been managed by Dan Lambert from American Top Team. Dan has a good relationship with Dana and Coker and all the other organizations. Dan talked to the UFC from time to time, and I think they knew what I was trying to do. I didn’t want to go to the UFC and get my feet wet. I wasn’t going to try and learn jiu-jitsu by facing Frank Mir or learning stand up by fighting Cheick Kongo. They knew that I wanted to take my time and build my skills and work my way to that level.
I know that there was some talk about going to the UFC, but I don’t think I was ever at the point where I was ready for that.
Heavy.com: I believe I’ve heard you say that you’d eventually like a match with Brock Lesnar. Is that your ultimate goal in MMA?
Bobby Lashley: Is Brock okay?
Heavy.com: It’s not looking good.
Bobby Lashley: I feel bad for him. Any time you have a chance to step in there with someone like Brock, it’s a big fight. And of course I’d like to do big fights. But if he’s not going to be okay or he’s not coming back, I guess that’s just wishful thinking.
Heavy.com: But if he does come back, the fact that it would be two former big name pro wrestlers going head to head, perhaps even for the championship? That would be an interesting case for MMA.
Bobby Lashley: It would. Hopefully I could be the good guy.
Heavy.com: I’m guessing that anyone facing Brock won’t have a problem being the good guy.
Bobby Lashley: Yeah. I dont know, though. If Brock comes back from this injury and makes it back to the cage, he might be a serious babyface.
Heavy.com: Really? From talking to regular fans, I get the sense that a lot of people won’t cut him a break regardless of his health. Some of them say that he’s sick because he takes steroids.
Bobby Lashley: Oh, come on. They don’t give him a chance. The guy can’t do anything right in their eyes. He really can’t. He wins the UFC heavyweight title and they boo him. The guy can’t seem to do anything right. They need to give Brock the same kind of respect they give any other champion, you know?
Heavy.com: And that’s the crazy thing. He got a bad rep for coming out of pro wrestling, but people don’t realize that there are tons of guys in MMA who have a pro wrestling background. Guys who are considered legends in the sport have backgrounds in wrestling. Maybe Brock gets the bad rep because of the level he was at in the WWE?
Bobby Lashley: He was definitely more mainstream. The funny thing is that a lot of these fighters are doing movies now, and they’re having this little fight roles in the movies. And when they’re doing these fight scenes in the movies, they are loving it. Absolutely loving it. As a matter of fact, I just did a movie not too long ago with Michael Bisping, and we had a little fight role in there. We had a great time doing it. And after we finished, Michael told me how much fun it was doing the movie. You know what? That’s what professional wrestling is. We get to do that on a day to day basis. And when they get an opportunity to do it, to really see what pro wrestling do, they all tell me how cool it is. That’s all it is. It’s acting, you know? Rampage Jackson is doing the A-Team movie, and he’s stoked about that. He took some time off to do it. Doing a movie is the same thing as pro wrestling. Pro wrestling is you playing a role and having fun on TV. That’s all it is.
Heavy.com: That career can also help you in your MMA career, because you still have to have the ability to make people care about you if you want to make any money.
Bobby Lashley: Of course. That’s what I always try to tell people. Like with Herschel Walker on this upcoming fight card. When I found out I was on the same card as Herschel Walker, man, I was excited! The reason being that if you have Herschel on a card, there’s going to be a lot of football fans who want to come over and watch the show. And the same time that they’re tuning in to see Herschel Walker fight, they’re going to see me. They’re going to see Nick Diaz and all these other guys that are on the card. And we’re all going to get a better fan base, because maybe I’ll be able to impress some of the fans. Maybe they’ll see me fight and then Google my name to see what I’m all about. I might be able to pick up more fans.
And that’s what it’s all about. You have to bring these other names into the sport. They help build the fan base and bring other people into watching it.
Heavy.com: Speaking of bringing new fans into the sport…you train at American Top Team, the home of Kimbo Slice. Have you been able to train with Kimbo?
Bobby Lashley: Yeah. I actually trained with him a little bit this week. I think Kimbo is alright, man. He’s a cool guy. He’s really trying to learn. He doesn’t have an ego or anything like that. He’s like all of us. We’re all just trying to find our way in this business. People give him a hard time, but the guy pulls ratings, man. Six million viewers in his last fight? You can’t deny that the guy is a ratings king. And he likes to fight, so that’s a good deal. I have a gym up in Denver, and that’s the problem we have with some of our guys. It’s a fight. It doesn’t matter if your kicks don’t miss or you are a jiu jitsu master. When you get in that cage and close that door, some people can just step out there and fight and some people won’t. And I think Kimbo has that aggression where he really wants to come out there and throw his hands. He wants to fight. That’s something great to build on. He’s going to be alright. I hope for the best for Kimbo.
Heavy.com: How does stepping into the cage compare to walking into the WWE ring? Does going into a fight compare to walking out for Wrestlemania and representing Donald Trump against Vince McMahon?
Bobby Lashley: That’s a hard comparison. I think it’s similar, but it’s completely different. There’s a different level of stress when you go out there for a wrestling match than when you go out there for a fight. Because you’re actually putting your manhood on the line when you go out there for a fight. Wrestling brings its own challenges. I mean, you’re going out there for Wrestlemania in front of 80,000 people? So there’s always going to be a level of, I don’t want to say fear, but nerves are definitely going to be there. The same feeling is going to be there when you walk into a fight. But I guess it’s like when I first started out in wrestling, on Smackdown, in front of 17,000 people in Canada. The nerves were there. And I’m just starting out in MMA and the nerves are definitely there.
But wait until I have ten or fifteen fights under my belt. I’ll be walking into the cage without any fear.