It’s rare a Mixed Martial Artist with only a handful of fights under his belt elicits the type of attention Strikeforce heavyweight Bobby Lashley has thus far in his career. Then again, it’s equally unique to find an athlete with his physical dimensions, accomplishments as an amateur wrestler, and crossover potential as a former WWE Superstar. However, regardless of his pre-MMA fame or the success he’s experienced thus far in the cage, Lashley has remained relatively grounded while showing the genuine appreciation for his place in the sport his displayed when first giving it a go.
The 5-0 fighter, who has been out of action since a first-round TKO of Wes Sims last January, is set to face Chad Griggs on August 21st at Strikeforce’s upcoming event in Houston, Texas. Lashley recently spoke to media during a conference call about where he feels he’s at in his progression as a fighter, his recent experience training with American Kickboxing Academy, and why he thinks he’ll be challenging for the Strikeforce heavyweight title in early 2011.
When asked to comment on Griggs, who has finished all eight opponents he’s claimed victory against, Lashley made it clear he respected “The Grave Digger” as an adversary and looked forward to the challenge he provided.
“I think (Griggs) might be underestimated. He’s got an 8-1 record and he’s got a lot of knockouts to his credit. I’m coming in at 5-0 so I think he’s right in line as an opponent for me. I don’t think anyone is thinking I should be fighting Fedor who has 30 wins under his belt. (The media) are going to say what they are going to say but I think this is a good test for me. I think he’s a great fighter and he’s got a great record. Before I didn’t know what my level was, but just training with Cain (Velasquez) and (Daniel) Cormier has shown me I can compete at that level. If this fight goes the way I hope it shows I’m going all the way to the top. I know what my abilities are.”
Lashley also elaborated on how training with AKA had helped prepare him for Griggs, saying “I feel better than I’ve ever felt coming into a fight. This is just another one of those tests. I’m coming in bigger, better and faster than I ever have. So I’m pretty confident coming into this fight.”
However, a strong sense of self-belief is nothing new to the 6’3”, 265-pound heavyweight and rightfully so based on his achievements as NAIA/US Army wrestler, cinder-block fists, and – according to Lashley himself – an underrated, untapped set of striking skills.
“I’ve had a good amount of confidence going into each of my fights. I have twenty years of wrestling experience and three national championships and I came in second at the world championships. So I know people are thinking they have to avoid the take down with me. With this fight I know I have my wrestling ability but there are other things I would like to work on. One thing my coach at the Olympic Training Center used to say was, ‘You could lie to the media, you could lie to everyone else, but once you get back to your hotel the night before your fight you can’t lie to yourself.’ At this point I can look at myself and say I’m 100 percent ready for this fight.”
“I think my striking is better than people think. Just because I haven’t used it doesn’t mean I don’t have it. I feel comfortable with my striking. If we have to stay standing we can stand. I don’t think anyone can stop the take down. If I want to take somebody down, they’re going down.”
And, though a win could merit a title-shot in the eyes of some based simply on his undefeated status and mainstream connections, Lashley doesn’t appear to be in a rush for a crack at promotional gold, preferring to instead earn the opportunity with victories over a few more opponents.
When asked about his expectations for championship contendership, Lashley replied, “Hopefully at the first part of next year. I don’t know when my next fight will be. That’s up to (Strikeforce executive) Scott Coker to decide. I’m not going to take any time off. I like to train and I want to stay conditioned. After this fight I just hope to keep training and get that title shot next year.”
On top of Lashley’s attempt at prolonging his undefeated streak, “Strikeforce – Houston” also features a pair of title fights, as ”King Mo” Lawal will defend his light heavyweight strap against Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante and Tim Kennedy will battle submission-specialist Renaldo “Jacare” Souza for the promotion’s vacant middleweight belt. Lightweight contender KJ Noons will also see action on the card, facing 13-6 BJJ blackbelt Jorge Gurgel.