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Abu Dhabi takes Roy Nelson out of his comfort zone at UFC Fight Night 39

Local fighter hopes to escape long journey with victory, and luggage

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Steve Marcus

UFC heavyweight and Cimarron-Memorial grad Roy Nelson hits a bag at Gold’s Gym, 7501 W. Lake Mead Blvd., Monday, June 10, 2013 in this file photo.

UFC FIght Night 39 complete card

  • Heavyweight bout: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Roy Nelson
  • Featherweight bout: Clay Guida vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri
  • Welterweight bout: John Howard vs. Ryan LaFlare
  • Lightweight bout: Ramsey Nijem vs. Beneil Dariush
  • Heavyweight bout: Jared Rosholt vs. Daniel Omielanczuk
  • Bantamweight bout: Rani Yahya vs. Johnny Bedford
  • Middleweight bout: Thales Leites vs. Trevor Smith
  • Middleweight bout: Andrew Craig vs. Chris Camozzi
  • Featherweight bout: Jim Alers vs. Alan Omer
  • How to watch: UFC Fight Pass airs complete card beginning at 8 a.m. Friday.

More than half of Roy Nelson’s fights in the octagon have taken place in Las Vegas.

It’s uncommon for any fighter to compete at a single location that often in this nomadic age of the UFC, but no accident when it comes to the local heavyweight veteran.

“It’s the Fight Capital of the World, you definitely want to fight in Vegas,” Nelson said. “I like less travel. You don’t have to worry about the environment or anything.”

The location preference could make his next fight trying. Nelson (19-9 MMA, 6-5 UFC) takes on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (34-8-1 MMA, 5-4 UFC) in the main event of UFC Fight Night 39, streaming on Fight Pass, Friday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

He got somewhat of a head start on the obstacles that come with fighting in the Middle East when traveling to Abu Dhabi for a media tour last month. Before departing for his return trip Sunday, Nelson chatted with a group of local media about the experience and more.

Read below for excerpts from the conversation.

Was it hard to adapt to the 11-hour time difference from here to Abu Dhabi?

The flight over there is like 25 hours. If you make the changes with your sleep pattern during the whole day you’re flying, then you can make the adjustments. I hope it’s better than the last time I went because they lost my luggage.

Did they find it?

They did find my luggage. It was just a day later.

What do you think about fighting Nogueira?

Everyone wants to fight Nogueira in the UFC because he’s the only one that’s won a Pride belt and a UFC belt. He’s a legend. He’s one of those guys that comes to fight. He’s an old-school guy where he’s going to try to finish the fight regardless in the first round or fifth round. I respect fighters that try to do that instead of play the new game, ‘I can outpoint you for five rounds, three rounds or whatever.’ I like the old school of, ‘We’re in this cage and only one guy is going to leave.’

Your last two fights resulted in losses by decision. Do you feel those opponents were trying to play the points game?

The reason why I really like this fight is because I’ve got five rounds. You’re not going to get out of the cage so easy. You’re not going to do just 15 minutes. If you’re going to beat me up, you’ve got to do it for 25 minutes. And guess what? In 25 minutes, I know I’m going to land at least once or take you down and choke you out.

Is there any extra urgency coming in off on a two-fight losing streak?

No. Every fight is important, but at the same time, I’m exciting and people want to watch me. It’s kind of like when you guys write a bad article. Someone is going to go, ‘That one is bad, but I’ll keep reading.’

How do you feel about being in a fight airing on Fight Pass exclusively?

That’s the connotation people are getting but it’s actually going to be live on TV internationally. It’s equivalent to being on Fox, but in London, in Germany. Internationally, it expands your fan base tenfold because it’s like being on a major network. But in the US, it’s like ‘Oh, you’ve got to buy Fight Pass,’ which is basically pay-per-view except cheaper because you only have to pay $10 to see me.

Have you used Fight Pass?

I actually haven’t yet because there weren’t any fights I wanted to see. If Gustafsson was fighting someone else maybe, but it wasn’t a fight card I really wanted to see.

You described Nogueira as a legend. Do you strive to reach a status like that?

I think, fan base-wise, I’m definitely up there with Big Nog. Everyone knows my name. Roy Nelson is definitely household. I definitely want to leave my mark to where people say, ‘Man I love the way Roy fights,’ and ‘I love the way Roy finishes fights.’ That’s ego as a fighter. You want to leave a little mark on the sport.

Do you track your popularity after every fight?

On the international side, when I can walk down a street in Abu Dhabi and someone recognizes me, then I know I’m doing pretty good. When someone in a foreign language says something like when I went to Japan, I know I’m doing pretty good. You look on the bright side of where you are. I could be with a couple different fighters who have been in the UFC eight or nine years, and we walk down the street together, and the only person they recognize is me. I look at that as a highlight.

You’ve been outspoken about the merits of increased drug testing. What do you make of the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s ban of testosterone replacement theory?

The way I look at it is, it just goes back to putting everything back in the dark a little bit more. There was that little loophole that wasn’t really a loophole. If anything, I actually thought it was probably better because you’re not getting the stuff off the black market. It’s probably a little safer for the athlete. If you’re going to cheat, you’re going to cheat.

Was Daniel Cormier getting down to 205 pounds inspiring to you at all to drop to light heavyweight?

Not really. For Daniel getting down to 205, that’s where he’s been in his adult life. I haven’t been at 205 in my adult life. The last time I was under 205 pounds, I was maybe 16 years old.

But you’ve mentioned it before, so it’s not completely out of the question?

Well, when you’re older, you lose muscle. Randy (Couture) was a lot bigger when he was younger. When he was older, that’s when he switched to 205 because it was an easier cut because he lost mass and muscle. If you lose muscle, then definitely you can fight at different weights.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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