I stirred up some controversy last year with an up front opinion about the relative skills of one of the UFC's top heavyweight stars. That in itself is unusual - most of the sport's media is carefully devoid of opinion of any kind, tied to relationships with fighters and fight promotions. At SB Nation we have the freedom to look at things from a fan's perspective, and this fight fan thought Roy Nelson was an ordinary fighter.
Sometimes you know you have a controversial article on your hands. The topic is juicy, the opinion maybe a little different than the consensus. This wasn't one of those times. Nelson had just been demolished by Junior dos Santos and looked completely mediocre. Sure he toughed through 15 minutes- but that just allowed more chances for Junior to punch him in his giant head. It never occurred to me that a fighter whose best career win was against a still green Brendan Schaub was really considered a legitimate contender.
The response was a little surprising.
Fans attacked online. Nelson attacked on Twitter and behind the scenes. It was a vehement enough response that I thought it would be wise to make sure I was coming from a position of truth. Was I missing something in Nelson?
Perusing my DVD collection and YouTube instilled me with confidence that should have never wavered. Nelson is a middleweight who needs to hire a nutritionist ASAP. As a heavyweight at the highest level, he's completely out of his element. That's partially due to a lack of skill, especially a predictable standup game that relies entirely on a looping right hand. But it boils down to discipline. Roy Nelson is trying to fight the best guys in the world while carrying scores of extra pounds. UFC announcer Joe Rogan says it's too much to overcome.
"He's doing himself a disservice carrying around all that extra fat trying to be a professional athlete," Rogan said after the fights. Rogan suggested that Nelson would be better suited at 205 pounds. I'm not sure that's the right target. Eyeballing his gut and noting his six foot height, Nelson may actually be best suited for middleweight. Either way, a change has to be made.
His appearance and refusal to take his profession seriously is embarrassing. The sport of MMA is still in a very precarious place in terms of key perceptions. UFC President Dana White and a generation of fighters have worked hard to erase a lot of stigmas about the UFC being nothing more than a bar fight or glorified tough man contest. One look at Nelson's gut hanging over his shorts helps erase all that progress in a mere moment.
For all of the talk of Nelson's obesity not interfering with his fighting, the proof was in the pudding last night in Las Vegas. Nelson was huffing and puffing after a single round with former champion Frank Mir, who dominated all three rounds on his way to a unanimous decision. Mir landed knee after knee, occasionally mixing in punches, elbows, and takedowns, including a judo throw.
Nelson could do nothing but hang on - and really that's all he's doing in the sport. Does Roy Nelson deserve to fill a spot on a UFC card when he can't be bothered to achieve the minimal level of fitness we'd want for an aging Uncle or septuagenarian? If Nelson isn't serious enough about his profession to lose weight, rededicate himself to training, and look for a title shot in a more appropriate weight class, why is the UFC wasting our time with his fights?
Nelson needs to make the changes necessary to stay in the UFC. If not, the UFC is well within their rights to send him packing.