Bobby Lashley has had an extremely busy year so far. In addition to appearing on TNA Wrestling and making a successful Strikeforce debut against Wes Sims in January, he opened up his gym American Top Team Altitude in Aurora, Colorado. Raj Giri of FightLine.com caught up with Lashley and talked about his pro wrestling career, his next fight, his thoughts on Fedor Emelianenko, Brock Lesnar and more.
Congratulations on the opening of your gym last week. How did the grand opening go?
It was great. It was a lot better than we had even expected. We had started planning it about 3 weeks before we wanted to do it so it was a little rushed, but the outcome was incredible.
There have been some conflicting reports on your status with TNA Wrestling, which recently started going head-to-head with the WWE on Monday nights. What is your status with the company?
As far as I know, I’m not working with them. At the time things started getting really built up with fighting and signing with Strikeforce and everything, it was just kind of hard doing both at the same time. We tried to work something, but I guess it didn’t work. So as far as I know, I’m on the future endeavored lists (laughs).
How would you describe your time with TNA Wrestling?
It was cool, I met a lot of real cool people there. It was a really cool time. Everybody gets along real well, they have a good atmosphere, they work hard. They have a lot of potential with that company.
Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff recently joined the organization and took over the creative reigns of the company. That are your thoughts on the changes that they’ve been making?
I think it’s good. Having someone like Hogan on your side, it’s always going to be a good deal. I think Hogan’s going to bring a lot of the stardom to the organization that they need. He’s an icon of the business, so of course, he’s only going to make it better.
TNA Wrestling just recently re-started the famous Monday night wars of the 90’s by moving their television show head-to-head against RAW on Monday nights. Having wrestled for both companies, how would you compare the two?
It’s a hard comparison, each company has their own view of where they want to be and what they want to do. So it’s kind of like comparing apples to oranges. I enjoyed WWE, WWE catered to the masses and they really pushed the entertainment aspect of it and TNA was a bunch of guys that really wanted to take it further and work hard. They had some great workers over there [in TNA]… I think they’re both great organizations.
Will we see you wrestling again in the near future?
You never know. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Right now it’s MMA, I’ve got a lot of big fights coming. I don’t foresee myself doing anything in wrestling for at least a year the way my schedule is.
There were some rumors that you may be competing on the April 17th Strikeforce CBS card. Are you currently training for a potential bout?
Yes. I don’t know, it could possibly be on the 17th. I don’t know. There was one call possibly for the 17th, and then I haven’t heard anything back. So I’m kind of just on stand-by right now.
So you haven’t been offered an opponent for the show?
The only thing I ever got was a note that said, “How about April 17th?” and that was it. I responded back “Yes” and that was a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t heard nothing else, no opponents or anything.
You recently said you’d like to slowly climb the ladder in MMA, then said that you’d be open to fighting Fedor Emelianenko or Alistair Overeem. Ideally what kind of opponent would you like to face next?
I think I would like to fight someone that’s dangerous from the ground simply because I’m really confident on the ground as far as my wrestling ability. So I would like to be able to get on the ground with someone that has a little more of a ground game so I can’t just rely on it. Or maybe even someone that I can just stand up with.
When you fight, some people just like to take any opponent at any time, and that’s good and everything, but I think I want someone that’s going to challenge me at different aspects of the game. For example, a person like Bob Sapp. Is he the greatest fighter? No. But he does pose a threat because he’s a really big guy and he hits hard. When I first started fighting, one of the things that people said was, “Bobby’s a lot bigger than all the guys that he’s fighting so that’s why he’s beaten everyone.” It’s an absurd comment, but that’s why I wanted someone like Bob Sapp in there, because I’m not bigger than him, so now you can’t say that.
What areas of your game are you looking to improve the most?
Just to let it loose a little bit more is the most important thing for me right now. I feel confident – really confident – in the training room and working with my stand up guys, whether it’s my muay-thai instructor or my boxing coach. But when I go out and fight, there’s a lot of pressure on me because there’s a lot of eyes on me because of the wrestling aspect so I tend to hold back a little bit more. I just want to be able to let loose and feel a little bit more comfortable out there so I can swing my hands and show people what I can do with my stand up. I think that my stand up is a very solid part of my game and no one’s even seen it yet.
Alistair Overeem hasn’t defended the Strikeforce heavyweight title since he won it in November of 2007. What are your thoughts on Overeem?
Well he’s the champ, so I really can’t say anything negative about him. He’s actually coming here to defend his title [rumored to be against Brett Rogers on May 15th] so I can’t say anything about that either. I think he’s a good guy, he’s a good champion. He’s a big guy (laughs), he’s very talented. He’s fought a lot of people so I think he’s going to be dangerous to anyone in the division. But the heavyweight division is wide open so I think it’s going to be very exciting to see all these heavyweights mix it up a little bit. I think in Strikeforce right now there are four or five people right now that can be the champion, so I think it’s going to be really exciting for the fans.
Where do you see yourself in the heavyweight division?
I think I’m six months to a year out of being in a top spot.
So do you feel like you’re a year away from facing someone like a Brett Rogers or another ranked heavyweight like that?
Not so much Brett Rogers, I was thinking more like the Overeems’, the Fedors’, the Arlovskis’. I think in six months to a year I’d like to face those guys, the top ones.
Many people feel that Fedor is the uncrowned kingpin of the Strikeforce heavyweight division. Have you been following him for awhile?
I think he’s a really dangerous fighter. There’s not too many people that can really make you pay for any mistake that you make. And that’s what Fedor does, you can’t make any mistakes with him. If you fight Fedor, whether it’s a three-rounder or a five-rounder, you have to be solid every round. You can’t make mistakes. You can’t get a little overzealous and jump into something because you think you can end the fight at any point in time. I think, like you said, he’s the uncrowned champion so I think he’s the person to beat in that weight class.
There have been a lot of comparisons with you and Brock Lesnar because of your pro wrestling backgrounds. Did your paths ever cross when you were with WWE?
I’ve never met Brock or ever talked to him.
Is he someone you would like to face?
We’re in two different organizations, so it’s hard for me to say yes. If I weren’t in Strikeforce, of course. I mean, if you want to fight the best and Brock is considered the best.
Speaking of which, there are a lot of people who feel that Fedor is the best heavyweight, while others feel it’s Brock. How do you think a fight between the two of them would go?
It’s a fight, anything can happen in a fight. I think it would be a great fight. I think Brock, if anyone, poses the biggest threat to him right now. But then again, Fedor has fought a lot of different people and he’s proven himself. Both of these guys are great champions, I don’t know who would win.
Wes Sims has had some derogatory comments directed to you after you defeated him in January. Is he someone that you would like to face again?
I have no interest in beating him again. I mean, unless he wants to come into the room and be a throwdown bag for me, sure. But I don’t think it’s worth my time. Wes was more of a measuring gauge because he has fought a lot of people. I mean with 22 wins on your record, you have to say that the guy does pose a threat. He does have something because you can’t win that many fights if you don’t have anything. But I think in this business you shouldn’t be turning back. Once you’ve passed a level you don’t keep going back. So there’s no reason to have a rematch, it wasn’t that close of a fight.
Tell us more about your new ATT Altitude Gym that openend in Denver.
The gym is great, man. It’s about a 13,000 sq. ft. facility. We have a little bit of everything, we have kids classes, we have adult classes, and we have a fight team. We’re up to about 150 members and we’ve only been open for two and a half months. It’s just fun man, it’s a place where I spend a lot of my time, either on the work end of it or the training end of it. You can go to ATTAltitude.com and get the address and phone number and come on down. We’re there from 9 AM to 9 PM every day except Sunday so if anyone wants to come, they can come anytime and try out the classes. It’s a great gym.