Dear Roy: bring back 'Big Country'

Roy Nelson and Junk Food
"Big Country without the belly is like Nick Diaz without the sideways stare & nostril flare."...
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Gareth A. Davies

Gareth A. Davies is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster who has worked in combat sports media for over 20 years. He is currently the boxing and MMA Correspondent for The Daily Telegraph and FOX Sports' international UFC reporter and "UFC World" podcast host. His work has been regularly featured in Fighters Only, The Ring, BBC TV and Radio, ESPN and BT Sport. Follow him on Twitter.


Anyone feel short-changed the last time Roy Nelson fought? I did. Not because Roy was below par in combat, it was more about the big man himself. Or rather, the lack of him.

Where was "Big Country"? In my mind: out there in the wilderness somewhere, still grizzled and growing that Duck Dynasty beard and whistling tunes with a keg of beer strapped to his back and some animal skins slung over his shoulder.

Am I alone in thinking that the 249lbs version of Roy Nelson just doesn’t cut the mustard?

“Little Country” was the man who weighed in at the Houston event, and it was Lil’ Roy being tossed around by Daniel Cormier’s use of leverage and technique as if he were a lightweight.

I want big fat Roy, roly-poly Roy, and I want to enjoy every acre of him for every second that he fights.

'Big Country' in 2011 against Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 137

Shorn of those pounds, Lil Roy was no quicker than usual, and still blowing hard halfway into the first round. This slimline version is not on. In fact, he should be fined for not making weight--the Nelson way.

Don’t we identify with Nelson because he is the everyman? Don’t we admire what he has done because he has taken the heaviest punches from the baddest heavyweights on the planet, with belly, mullet and beard?

Didn’t sports fans love an Yokozuna, William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Pablo "The Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval--or Babe Ruth, for that matter--because of their shape and size? Those facets endeared them to us.

Without that belly, Roy just looks wrong. Right now, sucking himself in, he looks like his midriff’s been ravaged by a bush fire. He was once six times that of Willie Nelson.

Time to let it go again, Roy. Please.

Cut the beard if you have to, but don’t burn the belly pork. Big Country without the belly is a bit like Nick Diaz without the sideways stare look and the nostril flare; like Mike Bisping being muzzled in the build-up to a fight; or indeed, Chael Sonnen being banned from banter with Brazil, on ethical grounds.

The belly was the Nelson trademark. Sure, his "hobo chic"-- as I coined it--derives a level of mocking criticism from UFC President Dana White at his media scrums, but you have to be somebody to get White on his soap box.

Nelson celebrates his KO win over Cheick Kongo at UFC 159.

The beauty of Roy Nelson is his huge size, and even bigger silences. He’s a nightmare interview for the media men, because his insouciance is legendary. Lose the fat; lose the aura. Sampson had his hair; Roy has his belly.

In so many fights, you know opponents had trouble with underestimating him because of the blob they were facing off against.

But in Houston, from a few feet away, he looked like a man caught on the border--neither big, nor, indeed athlete. Just as aficionados of MMA dream of pulling off moves which only Anthony Pettis or Anderson Silva or Jon Jones are capable of in the Octagon, don’t many of us with our own bellies and man strength admire the way that Nelson nullifies opponents, takes the beatdown and appears to emerge unscathed time and time again?

Here’s a little prayer that Nelson gets the turkey and dumplings in early for Thanksgiving, and gets that big old roast belly back to what it ought to be.

That way, he can don a Santa suit in six weeks time, do what Mother Nature meant him to do by delivering presents at Christmas, and then, in the New Year, when most folk are planning (or at least claiming to be thinking) about UFC Fit and The Dolce Diet, put on some pounds and get ready to be big bad "Big Country" again.

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