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According to reports, Bellator heavyweight Roy Nelson has lost five potential opponents due to injury in his big-show MMA career.
The most recent one, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, bowed out of a rematch at Bellator 200 with an undisclosed injury. By now, Nelson isn’t surprised to get the news when a scheduled fight gets canceled. He just chalks it up to the current state of the sport.
Nelson (23-15 MMA, 1-1 BMMA), who faces PRIDE vet Sergei Kharitonov (27-6 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) on Friday at Bellator 207, sees a dearth of competitors with an “old fighter mentality.”
“You just push through it until the wheels fall off,” Nelson told MMAjunkie Radio. “Fighters now, they go, ‘Oh, my finger! Oh, my back! Oh my gosh!’”
As money has flown into the sport and the stakes have gotten higher, the rate of injuries has gone up. Just this year, the UFC has lost 12 main or co-main events due to injury. Bellator has also seen multiple headliner changes, including a lightweight title headliner bewteen champ Brent Primus and Michael Chandler, and a featherweight main event between rising star A.J. McKee and ex-champ Pat Curran.
Nelson doesn’t think much of improvements in training methods that are designed to keep fighters safe in the gym. He said they don’t address the root cause of withdrawals.
“Everybody’s just making sure they get their paper,” Nelson said. “They’re not really in love with the sport. They’re going, ‘How do I get my paper?’”
Big paydays are certainly one of the things that keep Nelson in MMA. But he is also constantly in the gym. The only time he stops is when he’s legitimately injured. If he has a fight booked, he just keeps going.
An upcoming fight against Kharitonov, a hard-nosed Russian with a penchant for slugfests, reassures Nelson that he won’t have to worry about whether his opponent will show up.
“From a fan standpoint, it makes it more exciting,” Nelson said. “And from a fighter standpoint, it makes it worse, because you’re like, ‘Man, this is going to hurt. This guy is actually going to try and fight me.’”
And it’s possible the injury bug could wind up benefiting Nelson. With Cro Cop’s withdrawal, he was awarded an alternate spot in the heavyweight grand prix after losing his opening round fight against Matt Mitrione. An injury to the remaining four competitors could open up a spot in the tournament.
He would be happy to see a withdrawal then.
MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.
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