Lorenzo Hood is a big, big heavyweight. Standing at 6'3 and a self proclaimed 290 lbs, the former football player has the potential to make a major splash in the 265 lb division. This week, he's making his Bellator debut against Raphael Butler, a crossover from pro boxing with a solid 9-1 record and an almost equally out-sized frame. Bellator 141 takes place on August 28th in Temecula, California.
Before his fight, Hood sat down with Bloody Elbow to talk about the early days of his MMA career, the path he's on now, and what he's looking at years down the road. And maybe just a little bit about some recent goings on in the UFC as well.
"I played football, I was big into football, but always big into combative sports, whether that was judo, kickboxing, or boxing in general, always, growing up," says Hood about his path into combat sports. "I fought before, just kinda by luck. I was at an amateur event with a bunch of my friends and they need a heavyweight; one of the heavyweights got hurt that night. And they kind of asked around and my friend's coach was like, 'Hey, we've got a heavyweight who's never fought before,' obviously, 'but I'm sure he would fight.' And I was just coming off of an injury from football at that point, so I was healing up. I ended up fighting, they gave me a pair of shorts and a cup, and I fought. That was my first amateur fight. I ended up winning in, I think it was like 16 seconds. That right there was all I needed, I kinda got hooked after that and I was just training non-stop."
Well, kind of non-stop. Hood did end up taking a long break from the sport. After going 6-1 in 2009, Hood left MMA to try and work his way to the NFL, playing in the Arena League and the CFL. After getting sidelined by injuries and trying out for the WWE, he decided to take another crack at an MMA career.
"I was playing football," Hood said, speaking about his hiatus from MMA. " I was playing Arena Football, and I was playing in Canada as well. Everything was going good, I was trying to make my way back, trying to get to the NFL. Then I had a minor setback with an injury. And then I was healing from that. Everybody that I knew was like, 'Yo, you need to get back into fighting. You need to get back to fighting the heavyweight division; people need heavyweights,' etc, etc. That kinda was it. I missed the competitiveness, I missed the training, the physical part of it, and pushing myself every day. So, I got back into it and here I am today."
You might expect that five years off to pursue an NFL dream would leave hood over 30, like a lot of "young" heavyweights getting their start in MMA. But, Hood is only 26, practically a teenager by the heavyweight aging metric. And even though he's a young fighter just getting started, he's not planning on sticking around longer than he should.
"No. No, no, I definitely... If I'm still fighting when I'm 40, I didn't do a lot of things right in my career. And that's no offense to the guys who are 40 right now, I just don't feel like... I mean, you can see it, the level of some of these guys who have gotten older, you watch them fight as opposed to when they were in their mid-30s or 20s, the fighters that they become, they're not even half the fighters that they were.
"Being athletic, your body can only take so much. I don't care how tough you are, I don't care how good shape you're in or how good your diet is, your body is only designed to take so much abuse before you diminish."
With the future still a long way away, however, Hood talked about the fight in front of him, Rafael Butler, himself a striker and with a stronger pedigree, at least on paper. Despite Butler's boxing experience, however, Hood says he doesn't have much interest in changing his approach for his opponent.
"I'll give it to Raphael Butler, I think he's a good fighter" Hood told Bloody Elbow. "I think he was an accomplished boxer, definitely. I think he's a good technical boxer, I think I'm a way better kickboxer. I think that when it comes to knees, elbows, kicks, with my athleticism and my power and everything that I do, I feel that'll be the biggest difference in the fight. Anything that I see I'm going to kick, I'm going to hit it, and it's going to hurt. I think I'm going to slow him down to the point where standing and trading with him will be something that I do standing right in front of him. Gameplan for me is always, honestly: just go out there and win the fight. That's my gameplan. That's my coaches' gameplan and what we're gamplanning for is win the fight. Don't worry about everything else that happens. If it's open, hit it. If it's not open, don't hit it. We've been trying to simplify it."
As one of the few heavyweights who appears to not only be in shape, but regularly listed at the heavyweight limit of 265 lbs, I wanted to know, just how much weight does Hood cut to fight at heavyweight. He said he usually cuts down from 290 or 293 lbs, which led to the only natural followup question: how would the UFC's IV ban effect a fighter like him, cutting that much just to be a heavyweight?
"You know, I don't know what's going on with the UFC, man. But definitely, cutting and IVs in my opinion makes sense. Some guys, they're competing, they're going through all this to make weight, for the promotion, for the contract that they signed. And now you're penalizing the guy for getting his IV and being fully hydrated to fight the next day. That doesn't make much sense to me.
"If that was me, I'd be outraged. I definitely, I would be in super trouble. Even with four or five bags of IVs, I still don't ever truly feel 100% hydrated. But I can only imagine not having any IV bags, what I'd feel like.
"I don't have much fat to cut. I'm cutting water and some muscle, so it's definitely something that would steer me away from that promotion."
Still on the subject of recent UFC changes, Hood talked about the recent UFC uniform rollout and sponsorship changes. Most particularly, Hood spoke about why he isn't especially surprised at the amount of negative fallout the UFC has gotten over their recent moves.
"Once again, man. You take a sport and you start putting uniforms and you start making all these other sideline petty rules and start doing all these things," Hood told Bloody Elbow, speaking to the UFC's recent Reebok partnership. "Next thing you know, what's left. They're controlled by Dana White and Lorenzo and they can do whatever it is they want. I've read about fighters that aren't making tons of money from this Reebok deal. Obviously, a lot of them spoke out about it. It's a great deal for the UFC, it's not a great deal for the fighters.
"And at the end of the day, the fighters are the ones going in there and putting their lives on the line. We're the ones going in there giving our body, our health, and who knows, like I said, our life. You're doing all this and, you've seen it, some guys are making an extra $15,000 on sponsorships. And now you take that away and you tell a guy, 'Well, we're going to give you this set amount, until you reach the top 20 or top 10 or top 5,' and that's ridiculous.
"I'm not a guy who really... My sponsorships, I'm not a huge sponsor guy, just never really had that. I don't like to be looking like a Nascar car out there, but I have a few that have stuck with me and I've been with them in MMA since no one knew who I was at all, until this point now, and I stick with them. But I feel like it's another reason why a lot of guys are leaving and wanting to be outside the UFC.
"I don't care how great of an organization you are, and I have no hard feelings toward the UFC or anything like that at all... I just feel like, no matter how great you are, to some extent you have to play to the fighters. You have to see what the fighters want, what they wanna do. You can't just make all these big decisions, the huge decisions, like an IV, or changing Reebok deals, no more banners, no more sponsors, you can't do things like that without having a huge backlash from it."
While Hood didn't spend his most recent training camp down in Florida with the Blackzilians, instead training up at his home gym in Chicago, Team Top Notch, he did talk about Blackzilians fighter Michael Johnson, and his recent decision loss to Beneil Dariush, a fight many thought Johnson won. For his part, Hood gave what he thinks could be a workable solution to bad judging.
"I think, in all aspects any time you go to decision now days, it's a shame that you have to be worried that even though you dominated the fight, you might lose. It's a shame that everyone can see that fight... I think what [the UFC] need to do, since they're calling all these rules, is have almost like a challenge that they have in football, like a review. So, that when a decision like that is called, there's like a 24 hour period where you can get three new judges to go in there and watch the fight and if they see something different then they could be able to overturn it.
With [the UFC] doing all these other things I think that's something they need to install, because how many fights are there where you're like, 'How, what? Did this guy win? How did he win? Did they watch the same fight we watched?' Michael Johnson was just another of watching and being like, 'There's no way that you lost the fight, but they called the other guy's name.'"
You can find Lorenzo Hood on Twitter @hood_zo