I recently interviewed TNA star and Bellator MMA heavyweight Bobby Lashley, who will be facing James Thompson this Friday at Bellator 145 in St. Louis, MO. Below is part one of the interview. Make sure to check back next week for part two, where Lashley talks about pro wrestling, if TNA ended his faction with MVP and Kenny King too soon, Donald Trump trying to set him up on a date, if WWE has heat with him, if he was disappointed that Brock Lesnar re-signed with WWE earlier this year and more.
* * *
You've mentioned before that you don't think the fight with James Thompson will actually go down at Bellator 145. Are you confident it will happen now?
"Yes. At this point, there's not a lot of hard work left in camp, unless he runs, and I don't think he runs."
This is a rematch of the fight you all had in New Delhi. What happened in that first fight?
"I think there was a lot of favoritism in that fight. At my worst, I could have won that fight. His manager was the promoter of the fight, and I think they were trying to stack the deck against me. It was one of those calls that came like 'we have a high profile guy who we'll put in a fight with you. He's probably not training right now,' and I wasn't. A week before they called me up and said he couldn't make weight, so if we couldn't go up ten pounds, he couldn't do it. We got there and he got on the scale at like 284. They kept bumping up. There's no commission, just throwing things together. I thought it was a poor performance by me, but I think I did enough to win."
Where do you see yourself going with a win over Thompson? The Bellator Heavyweight Title hasn't been defended in a while. Do you see yourself going in that direction?
"Absolutely. We've talked with management, and there's only a few names in the division at the top continuously winning fights, and I'm one of them. I think after this fight and one more, there has to be some sort of title shot. There has to be by the process of elimination, there's not a lot of guys left."
Do you have any plans New Year's Eve? I know Fedor is looking for an opponent.
"It's something I think may be thrown at me after this fight. In one of these interviews I was asked about Kimbo, too. Then of course the title shot. We can discuss all of that. I know that Kimbo has been one that's been rumored lately. I leave that up to Bellator. I know Scott Coker has a great vision for Bellator. Everything he's done so far in Bellator and Strikeforce has been a home run. If he has some sort of vision for e to fight Fedor or Kimbo, I just have to trust in what he says or wants, and go with whatever the plan is. He understands success. I'm ready for whatever they throw out."
What were your thoughts about Scott Coker taking over as CEO of Bellator, and the changes he's made?
"I thought it was great. I worked him in Strikeforce, and he had a great vision. He understands the entertainment side and the fight side. MMA is getting to a point where there's no room for anything but even matchups, and the casual fans will start pulling away. Scott knows something different and will bring something different than any other promoter. Like when you have a Kimbo and Shamrock fight, and at the same time you put Michael Chandler and Will Brooks on there, some great fighters on there. You can mix everything up so you have something for everyone. You use those big names. I enjoy working for them."
How much do you think you'll be wrestling in 2016 as opposed to how much you'll be fighting?
"It just depends on what happens next for me. I'm looking to go out and have a good showing, and if I have a good showing there are a lot of big matchups in store for me. The three we already talked about. Winning a title, I'd be working with them a little more. If it's just doing bigger matches, I feel like I owe wrestling so much more. I'm never going to stop wrestling, and TNA works really well with my wrestling career, so I have the opportunity to do both. I think I'll do as much as I did this year. Could be more or less, but it depends on what happens next. "
How do you see Bellator growing next year?
"I think a lot of people are getting fed up with the UFC. I hate saying that, and I'm not trying to bring any animosity between the two organizations, just a lot of people are done with it. Phil Davis left UFC and came over, Josh Koscheck and Josh Thomson. They know Scott Coker treats them well. They're not going to be set up in a Reebok deal where everybody gets their sponsors cut, and aren't going to be walking on pins and needles. When those guys come over, they enjoy fighting again. I think a lot of guys are going to see something like that and see we have a good thing going on. I hope it doesn't happen like Strikeforce and get bought out. If it does, it does. I think a lot of people are going to come over, it's going to be a viable alternative. They have Viacom behind them, so it'll be interesting to see what Scott Coker does with it over the next 2-3 years."
Bellator announced that Kurt Angle would be participating in the Bellator 145 Q&A, which got a lot of people talking. Kurt has flirted with MMA in the past, is he someone at this stage you think could do a couple of fights.
"I think he can, absolutely. It's all about matchups. Kimbo jumped back into it. Not like he was going to fight Vitaly Minakov right away. Ken Shamrock did it. I know Kurt has bumps and bruises, but Kurt's Kurt. I've seen Kurt do some crazy things. People say he's all broken up, but people were saying that before I wrestled him, and we went thirty minutes, and I wouldn't have known Kurt had any type of injury. Kurt's a machine. He puts on a thing like he's a little injured, but Kurt can go. Kurt got me into the business, so I have nothing but good things to share about Kurt."
Has he brought it up to you?
"When we did Bound For Glory, it was a little after my fight, and Kurt was asking me a lot of questions. Then I hear 'Kurt signed, Kurt signed, Kurt signed,' and I'm like 'that mother….we were just talking and he was asking all these questions!' Kurt's all over the place."
CM Punk signed with the UFC last year, with no amateur background. What are your thoughts about him fighting with no fights under his belt?
"They're going to have to get someone that's his equal. You can't pay him a million dollars and have him fight Robbie Lawler. The commissions won't even look at someone with 20 or 30 fights. You see what Punk is able to do. He came to wrestling and didn't fit the bill of someone who would take over wrestling. He's not the Brock or The Rock or Triple H. He didn't have the size or look, but quickly became one of the best in the world. He knows how to overcome things. He's not going to put himself in a situation where he won't succeed. Punk can be wild and crazy, so it could be fun. They have to find the right matchup. He's with the right camp, Duke Roufus. He has guys like Anthony Pettis and Ben Askren to train with, and he has that 'never die' attitude. I think in that fight, there's going to be a lot of questions. His ability, how he reacts when he gets his first shot. By the third round, if he sticks around in there, people are going to be cheering him, and he might take over another genre. He could be the 'overcoming the odds' guy. I think he can do it. He needs to have fun. People ask if I'd give him advice: Don't do anything you don't feel comfortable doing. Styles make matches. Any person can get beat. He has to make sure he's matched up with the right person."
Bellator 145 takes place this Friday night from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO. The main card will air live on Spike TV. In addition to Lashley vs. Thompson, Patrício Freire will defend the Bellator Featherweight Championship against Daniel Straus, whole Bellator Lightweight Champion Will Brooks will defend his crown against Marcin Held.