HOUSTON — Las Vegan Roy Nelson entered his June fight against Stipe Miocic with a string of three straight first-round knockout victories and amid rumors he would garner a big-money deal from a rival promotion with his Ultimate Fighting Championship contract coming to an end.
Then he went into the cage and never mounted much of a challenge in dropping a unanimous decision to Miocic.
“It was the crappiest performance of my life,” Nelson said.
He chose to re-sign a four-year deal with the UFC and is ready for what he calls a “new beginning” with a heavyweight bout against Daniel Cormier on the UFC 166 card Saturday at Toyota Center.
Nelson admitted the contract situation was a “little distraction,” but said taking the Miocic fight on two weeks notice had more to do with the result.
He refused to concede the performance had any impact on negotiations for his new deal.
“Who I am and what I bring to the table, my value and worth had already been established,” Nelson said.
He added that the UFC had an exclusive negotiating period after his last deal expired and would have held matching rights had he gone out and signed a deal with Bellator, as had been rumored.
Nelson never got a chance to be a free agent in the traditional sense.
“I never got that far. It doesn’t work that way. I knew the UFC was always going to offer something,” he said, before acknowledging he would have liked to have seen if he got any other offers. “It’s always good when you can put two things side-by-side and say, ‘OK, that’s cheese pizza, and that’s pepperoni. Which one do I like better?’”
UFC president Dana White, who hasn’t always been a vocal supporter of Nelson, said before the Miocic fight that Nelson was taking a chance by refusing to sign an extension after his three straight knockouts.
White said Thursday the result of that bout didn’t affect Nelson’s new deal, however.
“We wanted Roy. We were going to sign him anyway,” White said. “It’s not like we were sitting there saying, ‘Oh, Roy, you lost, now you’re (expletive) buddy.’ We don’t do that. We don’t play like that.”
Armed with the new deal, Nelson will look to get back into title contention. That mission starts against Cormier, an Olympic wrestler who is 12-0 as a mixed martial arts professional.
Cormier saw Nelson’s fight against Miocic, but doesn’t expect a repeat performance.
“A lot of people look at that fight and talk about he was disappointing and say this and that about him after that performance,” Cormier said. “But to me Roy Nelson is a guy who has six knockouts in the UFC. He’s a guy who had three knockouts in a row going into that fight. He lost on two weeks notice. I had to go back and look at Roy when he was on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ when he used his wrestling and jiu-jitsu to complement his stand-up. If he comes Saturday night with his whole game on, Roy Nelson is as good as anybody in the world. I have trained for that Roy Nelson.”
To hear Nelson tell it, one would think there’s little chance that version of him will show up. He calls this the worst training camp he has ever had.
His boxing coach, Jeff Mayweather, suffered a heart condition after consuming an energy drink and was hospitalized, missing all but the first two weeks of camp. He was also without two of his usual training partners.
“It was just one of those camps where anything possibly that could have happened, happened. So you just kind of deal with (it),” he said. “I mean, I’ve been in the game long enough to know what I’m supposed to do and put the work in. And at the end of the day, that’s what it is.”
On the surface, it would appear training went fine. Nelson looks noticeably slimmer and again is teasing a possible drop to light heavyweight.
A win over Cormier would give him plenty of options in either weight class.
The bout is part of a pay-per-view event headlined by a heavyweight title fight between Junior dos Santos and champion Cain Velasquez.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.