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Roy Nelson one hard fight away from UFC title shot

Las Vegas fighter respects Junior Dos Santos, but confident he’ll beat him Saturday


Sam Morris

UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson hits the pads during a workout July 28, 2010. Nelson will face Junior dos Santos on August 7th in a number one contender eliminator bout.

UFC Heavyweight Roy Nelson

UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson talks to reporters after a workout July 28, 2010. Nelson will face Junior dos Santos on August 7th in a number one contender eliminator bout. Launch slideshow »

According to Roy Nelson, there was no question mark at the end of the text message UFC matchmaker Joe Silva sent him regarding an Aug. 7 fight with Junior Dos Santos at UFC 117.

The UFC needed an opponent for the rising heavyweight prospect and was done taking no for an answer.

"I got a text that said, 'You got mail,' and that's what it was," Nelson said. "They had asked around, 'Hey, you want to fight Dos Santos?' No. No. No.

"'They finally just said, 'Well, Roy will take it. Roy, here's your fight.'"

Not that the Las Vegas native is complaining.

A future shot at the UFC heavyweight title will be on the line when Nelson (16-4) and Dos Santos (11-1) meet this weekend at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. — an opportunity Nelson believes he's ready for.

Although he knew it wasn't likely, Nelson says he actually wanted a title fight immediately after winning the 10th season of "The Ultimate Fighter" in December.

Armed with the tools he believes will make him a UFC champion, Nelson says he's just been waiting for his time to come.

If Nelson has to get through Dos Santos, who he says is the best fighter in the UFC right now, to make that time come, so be it.

"If I could pick my way to the top, this is one of the fastest ways to do it," Nelson said. "I wanted to fight for the belt my very first fight, so this is OK with me."

While Nelson says he wasn't too impressed with either Brock Lesnar or Shane Carwin in their heavyweight title fight in July, his feelings about Dos Santos are different.

The 26-year-old fighter is a perfect 5-0 since joining the UFC in 2008, with four of those fights ending in the first round.

Nelson admitted Dos Santos' striking is probably the best of any opponent he's seen in his six-year career.

He also added that although there is no belt around the Brazilian's waist, he is the UFC's top heavyweight.

"Hands down, I think he's the best guy in the UFC right now," Nelson said. "This is my title fight, because I look at it as I think this guy can beat the guy who has the belt. I think Junior is the best."

As much respect as Nelson has for his opponent's game, the calm grin on his face as he answers questions about the matchup shows his underlying confidence in how the fight will go.

"Big Country" Nelson didn't opt to bring in any special sparring partners or coaches to mimic Dos Santos's style. Instead, he opted to train with the same, small group of fighters he always does — referred to, affectionately, as the "Country Club."

A former IFL champion, Nelson didn't get to this point in his career basing his game plan around others.

One fight away from the UFC heavyweight title, he's not about to change that attitude now.

"A lot of guys need to have that, but I feel if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, you're going to dictate the fight," Nelson said. "You're going to impose your will. It's not, 'How do I stop his will?' The whole fight-game mentality is different.

"If you're thinking about what he's doing, then you're not really believing in the tools you have."

In a way, it appears that Nelson's self-confidence has accelerated his path to the top of the division.

The 34-year-old fighter didn't come to the UFC to take easy bouts and preserve his contract.

He came to win the title and say yes to the fights others say no to.

"If I didn't think I was the best in the world, I'd be fighting in another organization," Nelson said. "I'm always the guy who wants to challenge myself.

"If you're in (professional sports), you either know you're a star or you're not. If you question that, and think you can be replaced, then you probably can."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at LVSunFighting

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