In a lot of ways Bobby Lashley owes his career to Brock Lesnar. Once dubbed "Black Lesnar," the former Army wrestler has followed in the giant South Dakotan's footsteps, from the amateur wrestling world, to the theatrics and grueling road life of the WWE, right into an MMA cage.
That's both a good and a bad thing. Lesnar has paved the way, but he's also created enormous expectations. Unrealistic expectations. Few will ever be able to match Brock's rocket like rise to the top of the MMA business. He fought former champion Frank Mir in his second fight. By his fourth fight he was vanquishing the legendary Randy Couture. Lashley couldn't match that. No one could.
"It's hard when you have your first fight. And that first fight is on TV," Lashley told Bloody Elbow Radio in an exclusive interview. "You have a lot of publicity around you. It's kind of hard. Other guys, they get a handful of fights before they ever see any competition or are even on TV or anything like that. My first fight was on a major card and I've been on TV my whole career. Everybody was like 'Who are you going to fight next? Are you going to fight Fedor?' And man, I've only got one fight under my belt!"
After a controversial loss to Chad Griggs last August in Houston, Lashley regrouped, reevaluated, and is moving forward. Making it to the top is still the goal, but this time, he's going to take it slow. Lashley has parted ways with Strikeforce and is starting fresh March 25th in Titan Fighting Championship, a regional powerhouse operating in his old Kansas City stomping grounds.
"I'm not giving up. I know what I'm capable of...There's going to be a lot less pressure. Because I'm not undefeated anymore," Lashley said. "That's going to alleviate a lot of pressure for me. I don't have to worry about keeping this undefeated streak or anything like that. I can just go out there and be more comfortable. I think you're going to see a much better fighter, because I think they're going to let me fight every couple of months. I'm just going to get better and better and better."
The loss to Griggs was liberating in a way, but the circumstances still trouble the former wrestler. Lashley controlled the first two rounds and was in a dominant position when the referee decided to stand him up. Struggling for breath, it was a decision that changed the fight irrevocably.
"It was kind of garbage. It was very, very poorly officiated. You can't improve from full mount. I don't think there's a better position. Taking me from the full mount position and putting us back on our feet, that was really bad," Lashley said. Exhausted after all most ten minutes of hard fighting, Griggs was able to put him away. But, according to Lashley, illness and not cardio was to blame for his diminished gas tank. "I was training really hard and feeling phenomenol. Then a couple of days before the fight I started feeling really weak. I went down to urgent care. The fight was on Saturday, I went to urgent care on Thursday. I just felt like garbage. They said I was dehydrated and they gave me some fluids and put me on an IV...I'm a heavyweight. I don't cut weight. There's no way I should be dehydrated....afterwards I was out of it. They had to give me four bags of IV fluid. Just to get me back...they sent the information back to my Doc here and that's when he said that I had mono."
Since recovering physically, Lashley has been back in the gym and improving on his skills. He plans a trip to train with Josh Barnett, a fellow pro wrestler who will be busy preparing for his upcoming quarterfinal matchup in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Lashley's opponent is an unknown named James Jack. But it's less about the opponent and more about the cage time for the fallen prospect.
"This Titan organization, they have a lot of fights planned this year. I could possibly be fighting every other month. And if that opportunity is presented to me, I damn sure will be fighting every other month," Lashley said. "Experience makes a world of difference when you're in that cage. That's one of the main things. I've been improving my skills in the gym considerably, but just getting out there and getting in the cage and fighting - that's what's going to make me a better fighter. I'm trying to get out there, get active, and stay as active as possible."
You can hear the complete Bobby Lashley interview on Bloody Elbow Radio. Join us this afternoon as special guest host Luke Thomas talks with Maximum Fighting Championship owner Mark Pavelich.