Big Interview: Nothing fake about Bobby Lashley's toughness
Tell Bobby Lashley professional wrestlers can’t fight for real and he will tell you he’s already proved you wrong.
If you’re saying this to Lashley anyway, you’re either brave or stupid – because standing at six feet three inches tall and weighing 260 pounds, he is an impressive specimen of human strength and conditioning.
But his muscles aren’t just for show – because for all the success he’s had in wrestling, his record as a mixed martial artist stacks up just as impressively.
And it says a lot when he reveals his attitude towards professional wrestling and MMA doesn’t change in the slightest, to the point where he can perform at the top level in the ring one week and win a fight in the octagon the very next.
“My style is basically the same – I hit as hard in wrestling as I do in MMA,” says Lashley.
Most famed for his time in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), performing alongside now president of the United States Donald Trump at entertainment spectacular Wrestlemania no less, Lashley has also built a strong MMA resume.
Away from the glare of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – where WWE colleagues Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey have been world champions and multi-million dollar draws – Lashley has built himself an impressive record across a range of promotions.
That has led him to Bellator – the second largest MMA promotion in the world – where he has won his last five fights, although the most recent was almost two years ago.
And while his current focus is on his career as a professional wrestler – he made his return to WWE earlier this year after a decade years away – he has been keeping an eye on Bellator, where he remains under contract and may soon want to reassert his dominance.
“There’s some of those guys talking trash – not about me, right across the board,” he said, before adding: “I absolutely want to fight again – I want to fight when I am 50 or 60 years old.”
That may sound ambitious, but for a man who turns 42 this July, he is in incredible shape and, with his attitude towards training, you would imagine he will stay that way for quite a while yet.
“When you want to stay in great shape, you can’t just be a bodybuilder, you have to be able to move,” he said. “I do some strength and conditioning work with my boxing coach and work with my ju-jitsu partner.”
While partying used to be Lashley’s priority on his long road schedules that don’t just take him all over America, but across the world too, he has now become a family man.
However, the issue of building strength and fitness stays the same when it is just Lashley and either a car or a plane to get from destination to destination in all corners of the planet.
“The first thing I try to do (when I get to a new place) is get some rest and then I’m ready to get up in the morning fresh,” he said. “I don’t need a lot (to work out). If there’s no gym, there’s push-ups, if I’ve done push-ups the day before then I’ll find a bar for some pull-ups.”
Lashley’s journey to the top of his professions began in the same way as some of his contemporaries – including Lesnar.
He was a top amateur wrestler, winning International Military Sports Council gold and silver during his three years with the US Army.
And he was hopeful of reaching the 2004 Olympic Games until he was caught up in a robbery during a routine trip to the bank in 2003.
“This guy kicked the door down and shot at me,” Lashley recalled of the robbery attempt to the Denver Post two years ago. “I took a dive down to the ground, landed on my knee, split my knee wide open and I had to go to surgery afterward.
“It was a crazy situation. It ended my amateur wrestling career.”
But as one door closed in heart-breaking fashion, another was opened by one of the all-time greats of both amateur and professional wrestling.
Kurt Angle won Olympic gold in 1996, despite wrestling the final match with a broken neck.
It is a story written into American sporting folklore and one that caught the attention of WWE for whom Angle remains one of their most popular performers today.
Angle saw something in Lashley and his transformation from top amateur wrestler to professional star was just as swift.
He picked up three titles during his initial run with the company from 2004 through to 2008, though his most memorable moment came alongside President Trump at Wrestlemania 23.
For as legitimate a fighter as Lashley is, it is peculiar to think the slapstick entertainment of his ‘Battle of the Billionaires’ match is his most famous moment in professional wrestling to date.
Trump, a full decade before he took charge of the US, was a roaring success and Lashley only had good words for the reigning president: “There’s one thing you can say about him – no matter what he puts his hands on, it’s a success.
“He was cool with me and he understands the game.
“He just said ‘I have the ability to help, what can I do?’
“He’s a team player and it was a great experience.”
It was not long after that though that shoulder surgery sent Lashley into a six-month hiatus and eventually led to his release in early 2008.
That allowed him to find himself though, in and out of the world of professional wrestling.
He built his reputation in the ring – winning the world title four times as one of the biggest stars for Impact Wrestling – and began his MMA journey in December 2008 with a 41-second stoppage of Joshua Franklin.
Seventeen fights later and Lashley has only ever been beaten twice – once on a judges’ decision and the other by a controversial doctor stoppage.
And Lashley believes his run in MMA has helped make professional wrestling be considered as legitimate as ever.
So don’t go calling professional wrestling ‘fake’ around him.
“I went over to the fight world to show people they’re wrong,” he said. “They have to respect there are a lot of guys on the (WWE) roster that if they would go over to the MMA world they would do just fine.”
Lashley is now back in the world of the WWE, where he wants to ‘make history’.
And you can’t help but feel that history will be intertwined with former UFC heavyweight champion Lesnar – WWE’s current top title holder – who has ambitions to go back to MMA.
For the decade he has been away from the WWE, people have asked Lashley about the possibility of a clash with Lesnar.
With the money that would be on offer for such a mouth-watering match-up, you can’t help but get the feeling that there’s not only the possibility of the two meeting in a WWE ring, but facing each other in a mixed martial arts octagon as well.
“I didn’t come here to have a good time,” said Lashley. “I want to make some history.”
Whatever the setting though, don’t expect Lashley to pull any punches.