Donald Wood passed along this recap.
We talked about TNA Impact Wrestling’s jump to Destination America, Lashley’s MMA career and comments about his next opponent, he talks CM Punk making the jump to MMA, if he’d take a fight against Brock Lesnar and so much more!
Below is the interview on YouTube and the transcription.
YouTube interview: http://youtu.be/bVTEekhYHHI
You square off against Bobby Roode for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on Wednesday, January 7 in Impact Wrestling’s debut on Destination America. What are your thoughts heading into the third match against Roode and do you feel you’re poised to regain the world title?
First of all, I think we rose that bar really high coming into this third match. The first match we had was incredible and the person that was supposed to win won. The second match was as incredible if not better. So with this third match were really going to have to give the crowd what they want but at the same time we know who should be the champion especially in TNA and that’s me. Destination America January 7th I think it would be a good time for them to go ahead and hand the title over to the real champion and then we can run it the rest of the year that way.
There’s a lot of intrigue surrounding TNA right now with the reboot and the move to Destination America. So, with TNA now potentially being seen by a brand new demographic of viewers, how important is it for not only you and Bobby Roode, but also the roster as a whole to make a good first impression? Is your mentality any different heading into this match than usual?
I don’t think it’s any different. I think that is what TNA has been doing the entire time during their existence. They were the organization everyone wanted to put their thumb on. Even with all the amazing people and talent we had coming over. Every week we had to prove ourselves over and over again. I don’t think it’s going to be a challenge. Since I have been there and even before that when I would watch some of the TNA stuff and they would always have great shows. The ratings have been doing great and the shows have been getting better each time. I think the momentum we had last year we’re going to keep it going. We have a lot of good guys coming in like the Hardys that are still in there. MVP, myself, and Kenny King we’ve been doing some big things. Bobby Roode, I mean he is the champion right now but we gotta take that away from him. Everything we’ve been doing has been right on point. We’re gonna show new fans what TNA is all about.
Can you explain the difference in how you approach and prepare for a wrestling match and an MMA fight?
Well I think, part of which is because I’m a little crazy, I don’t really distinguish between the two. My training stays basically the same. Before when I would go into training I would train just one way to get bigger and more of an appearance wise. Now I train completely different. I train to be a better athlete. That just goes hand in hand with what I’m doing for the professional wrestling side and the MMA side. I have a great training here and train with some great guys. So I don’t really have to change my training around. Sometimes when I get closer to a fight, I’ll just up my cardio just a hair. Now with the matches we’ve been having in TNA I’ve been having 20-30 minute matches so I have to be in good shape for those also. The training is so similar I just do some tweaks here and there depending on what I’m doing that week.
Since making your debut in Bellator fighting, you have been lights out with two straight victories. You will face James Thompson at Bellator 134 in February. Thompson was only one of two men to defeat you during your career. How can you ensure you continue your winning streak and defeat Thompson in the rematch?
There is a little bad blood between us and he knows why. The media circus we’re going to be in leading up to that point, I know there’s going to be a lot of discussion about it. People we go back and watch that fight and understand what happened. I don’t want to be the guy that says this, but I’m going to be that guy that says this, “I believe I won that fight.” So going back into this fight, I am training a little bit harder, this fight to me is a little bit more important because I am going for that redemption. I’ll put the time in in the gym. I’m in the gym a couple times a day now and we’re so far out, just getting mentally focused and ready for the New Year. I am giving almost 100-percent that I’m beating this guy in this fight.
You’re coming off one of the most impressive world title reigns in TNA history and arguably the best stretch of your wrestling career to date. You really seem to have settled into that dominant heel role, but what’s your preference in terms of playing a face or heel and why?
I think for me I am the middle guy a little bit. I think for my character he comes off as a heel but there is still a little bit of me inside there. Me as myself I don’t think is a huge heel. That’s why I have MVP over there running his mouth the whole time and Kenny King causing all the drama. That’s what makes me a bigger heel. I contribute that to the whole group. I’m a baby face in real life in person. I’m not kissing babies or doing cart wheels or jumping up in the crowd. So I’m kind of in that rougher stage where I’m a baby face or a heel. I don’t really care how quick the turn is, I think my wrestling style is going to stay the same.
We always feel that wrestlers never get enough respect as athletes. When you head into an MMA fight, do you feel an added sense of pressure to represent for all professional wrestlers? And when you return to TNA, do you feel there’s also added pressure to bring new viewers and fans to the company?
Hell yea. That’s just part of the job. If that didn’t happen then there’s no reason for them to keep me around. That’s just me being real and some people they don’t like to be real with things. When I go into a MMA fight all eyes are on me for the wrestling crowd and everything. They want to legitimize pro wrestling and so do I. The minute they go out there and say, “Oh Bobby Lashley the pro wrestler”. I go hey man, you don’t understand what we actually do. We’re not just guys that come into this and put a cape on and next thing you know were super heroes for little kids. We have backgrounds you know? I was a three time college national champion, I took second at the World Championships, and so I have a background leading into this. So when I come into this, I say, “Hey, I am a pro wrestler, but I’m doing MMA.” There’s going to be a relation between the two regardless of what I do so I don’t try to hide the fact at all. At the beginning, I wanted guys to consider me a really strong mixed marital artist. Now with my career where it’s at now, I have no problem going out there and defending pro wrestling. If they ask us before the fight what our fighting style is, I let them know I am a pro-wrestler. They kind of chuckle and I tell them to put that down. They can list collegiate wrestling but I have no problem defending pro-wrestling.
You are one of the few professional wrestlers to find legitimate success in MMA. One of the biggest topics of conversation lately has been CM Punk joining the UFC. What went into your decision to make the jump to MMA and how do you think a less-experienced fighter like Punk will do in the Octagon?
My jump was after I left pro-wrestling. I still had that competitive edge and felt like I was in great physical shape without too many miles on my body. I felt like I could go through training camps and be able to be healthy. So when I got out I jumped right into it. I think the big factor is getting into a good camp. I was in a good camp where they said, “Bobby we know you are a pro-wrestler and now you are in our room. We aren’t going to baby you. We’re going to go after you like we would anyone else”. I think that’s good and it helps keep me honest and humble at the same time. As far as the other side, I have been torn about this whole CM Punk thing. I am getting torn hard both ways. I can understand it from the fighter’s point of view but at the same time I can see it from CM Punk’s point of view. As soon as he did it, I went online and told him, “Congratulations and do what you want to do” because that’s what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter if people think he is ready or not, if he says he is going to do it then it’s him that is going to have to step in that cage. That is where I take my hat off to him and respect him for it. It’s going to be harder for him without having that extensive background to be able to do it. So I take my hat off to him and as a friend, a co-worker, I just tell him to make sure to bust your ass before going out there because once that cage door closes it’s real. There’s so many people that sit off on the side, that armchair quarterback and say, “I took a jujitsu class I had a couple fights on the street.” It is completely different. It’s a physical chess match and you have to have all your pieces of the game intact before going in there. CM Punk is a very intelligent guy and there is no way he would have made it to the level where he is now unless he was a very intelligent guy. This move was very calculated and he knows what the next step is and the one after that. Or if he doesn’t know he is going to have the right people around him to tell him. Man, I am going to tune into that fight and everyone else is so it’s good for everyone. It’s a win-win situation.
There’s recently been some talk about Bellator potentially making a play for Brock Lesnar when he becomes a free agent. If that comes to fruition would you be interested in stepping into the Octagon with Brock? And how do you think you’d fare against him?
Yes. Hell yea I would. I’m not one of those arrogant guys that goes around saying I would kick his ass or start trash talking online or anything like that. I’m one of the guys that understands what this business is about and it’s about money. Any fighter at the end of the day that says it’s not about the money is ridiculous. We wouldn’t be training this hard, putting our bodies on the line, and torturing our bodies if there wasn’t a payday at the end of the day. With that being said, if Brock does sign over with Bellator I think one of the biggest fights he could have is me. It’s not a case of this is going to be the greatest fight it’s because we have so many similarities. The crazy part is I have never even come face to face with Brock. I don’t know him and I have never met him. We just have always had a lot of comparison so this time give the fans what they want. Brock and I would beat each other up pretty bad but we will walk away very financially healthy. As far as who would win, of course I’m going to say myself. I wouldn’t take the fight if I thought I was going to go out there and get crushed. Our styles match and we wouldn’t over do the other person since we have the same styles. It would be a very strategic match and I like the match up.
Your recent work with MVP and Kenny King has been among the highlights of every TNA show. Could you discuss the relationship you have with them backstage, is that a reason the chemistry you share on screen has been so great?
When they put it together, it was one of those things we all joked about. You know, the obvious reason is there, and we all joked about it going “Why did they put us all together?” Our characters on TV are pretty close to what we are in real life, almost. I’m more the quiet and reserved person but I do the fighting and I’m pretty intense in that instance. Kenny King, his character on TV is him. They put us together and it was pretty organic and just meshed together. I’ve known MVP for a long time and then we put Kenny King in there and just fit like a piece of a puzzle. Since we’ve been together everyone keeps saying there is going to be that time when we need to split apart. But to me, I’m going to do everything I can to keep us together. I think it’s something fun, it’s different, and it works. So I would like to keep it going. Backstage we are all friends and we all mesh really well. We talk to each other outside the shows and strategize on what to do next.