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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bobby Lashley starts he"s MMA Debut

Bobby Lashley raced across the cage at the bell, picked up Joshua Franklin and viciously slammed him to the floor.

This all in the first 15 seconds of the one-time World Wrestling Entertainment star’s professional mixed martial arts debut on Dec. 13 in Miami.

Lashley, exhibiting an uncommon mixture of speed, quickness, power and strength, went on to win that bout in 41 seconds, showing the kind of potential that makes promoters want to get his name on a contract.

He’s powerfully built, comfortable performing in front of a crowd and athletic enough that one could easily forget you’re watching a 250- pound man move around the cage.


Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?

It’s the same sort of path UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar took after departing professional wrestling. And though Lashley doesn’t see the many similarities that are drawn between himself and Lesnar, he hopes to replicate Lesnar’s success.

“Brock has obviously done exceptionally well in the short period of time he’s been fighting,” the physically massive but exceptionally soft-spoken three-time NAIA national champion said. “Anyone who is in this profession would like that kind of success.”

Lashley, 32, faces veteran Jason Guida on Saturday in a combined boxing/MMA pay-per-view card in Pensacola, Fla., in the second step of his professional journey.

The one-time soldier professes great respect for Guida and insists he expects a difficult test despite Guida’s so-so 17-19 record. Lashley isn’t short on competitive experience, having wrestled four years in high school and in college, as well as in the Army, but he concedes that someone with nearly 40 pro MMA fights is a challenge for a guy with less than a minute of pro experience.

“I definitely have to take into consideration that he has a lot of

ring experience,” Lashley said. “Anyone with that kind of experience poses some danger to a newcomer. I can’t just go in expecting to dominate the match, because I know the guy has some tricks from being around so long.”

That hardly means that Lashley plans an extended feeling-out process. He’s significantly bigger than Guida and plans to find out how well Guida will be able to deal with his size.

If Lashley is true to his word, Guida’s going to have a 250-pound knot of muscle in his face not long after the bell rings.

“I’m throwing these 250 pounds in his face real quick and see if he has what it takes to withstand the abuse and the punishment,” Lashley said. “If he does, it’s going to lead to a longer fight. If he doesn’t, I’m thinking it will be a real short fight.”

Many fighters as large as Lashley are ponderous and can’t fight at a sustained pace for long periods of time. But he insists he’ll be able to push from the start – “I am in phenomenal shape right now,” he says – because he wasn’t always a heavyweight.

He began growing very quickly while he was in college and morphed into a physical specimen who retained the fast-twitch muscles of someone much smaller.

As a freshman in high school, he was a 110-pounder wrestling at 112. As a sophomore, he began wrestling at 119, but was getting bigger almost by the day and competed at 125, 130 and 135 all in the same year. He was a 140-pounder as a junior and a 160-pounder as a senior.

He was recruited to wrestle for Missouri Valley College as a 158-pounder. Problem was, he had already shot up to 195 by the time he hit campus. He never stopped growing and quickly became a massive heavyweight with a bantamweight’s instincts.

“You think of heavyweights as slow-moving, big, strong guys, but I grew up and learned the sport small,” Lashley said. “I learned how to move with a faster pace of training when I was small, and I was able to keep going at that pace as I got bigger and kept growing.”

After winning three NAIA wrestling championships in his four years at Missouri Valley, he had a stint in the Army, winning two Armed Forces championships. He then caught the eye of the WWE’s Vince McMahon, who knew that Lashley’s physique, athleticism and personality made him a natural for professional wrestling.

He was put into the WWE’s developmental program and competed in Ohio Valley Wrestling. By 2005, he was in the WWE. Lashley went on to a successful career and captured the ECW title.

He endured the grueling regimen of a professional wrestler, competing up to 250 days a year despite all manner of injuries. But McMahon lost interest in him not long after Lashley had shoulder surgery.

Lashley hadn’t lost the desire to compete and decided to make the move to MMA, where he has trained with the vaunted American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla. Like Lesnar, who instantly became one of the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view attractions thanks to the fan base he’d accumulated as a pro wrestling, Lashley understands that much of the interest in him these days can be attributed to his relationship with the WWE.

“This is a fight, but you have to remember that fighting is still

entertainment,” Lashley said. “The fact that I’m bringing a different fan base to fighting, and a large fan base, will help me. I’m in my second fight and I’m one of the top names on the pay-per-view. That’s because I am bringing a different fan base with me. I don’t mind the pressure of the expectations, because I’ve been an athlete and I’m used to that. I have a job to do and I’ve trained hard for it.”

Lashley is smart enough to realize that while his WWE affiliation has gotten him in the door, he’s going to have to prove himself to the MMA fans who may be skeptical about him.

“This is a results-oriented business and it’s up to me to take

advantage of the opportunity I have been given,” Lashley said. “Of course I want to make it to the highest levels of this business. Who doesn’t? I’m not expecting anything to be given to me, though.

“I want to create a buzz, but I want to do it by the way I fight.”

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