Hector Lombard: I can fight clean at the highest levels

Hector Lombard may be nearing his 40's and serving a suspension for steroid use, but he's still motivated to compete at the highest levels.

UFC welterweight Hector Lombard may be suspended until early 2016 after testing positive for a banned anabolic steroid, but the former Olympic Judoka still has his mind firmly focused on competing. In a new interview with Submission Radio, the Cuban talks about everything from competing in submission grappling against his gym-war rival Josh Barnett, to heading back to the Olympics, and more.

In 2000, Lombard represented Cuba in the 73kg (160lb) and under division in Judo. After that year’s Sydney games, Lombard immigrated to Australia and became a naturalized citizen there. Now, Lombard says he wants to represent his new nation at the 2016 summer games.

Why? So he can prove to people that he can compete at a high level, even with stingent drug testing.

"You know what recently happened with the situation with the UFC, I wanna prove that I don’t need any [banned PEDs] to compete at the highest level," he said.

Lombard still claims ignorance about the steroid use, leading up to his fight against Josh Burkman, in January. The fighter says that a fellow former Olympian friend of his, well, now former friend, gave him a pill to "help me feel better," and that he never knew it was a banned susbtance.

Whatever you think of his limp excuse, Lombard will not have to serve out the new draconian mandatory minimum suspensions recently approved by the Nevada Athletic Commission that other fighters who fail drug tests from here on out may have to. For that, the 37-year-old is grateful.

Getting a win overturned and being suspended for a year hit Lombard hard, emotionally. Now, his solace is that he could be competing again in just over half a year.

"It made me cry sometimes, but it is what it is. I mean, I believe that everything happens for a reason. It’s like you say, what if the same thing that happened to me would’ve happened two or three months after? I would be gone. I know I’m gonna get back. I know that I’m gonna be fighting soon and I’m gonna be winning," he said.

"Of course I am [happy that his drug test failure came before the new sanction standards]. I mean a few years of my career, it would have been devastating. You know what I mean? I’m not a young fighter. And three years, I basically would’ve been gone. I would be doing something else. But yeah I’m kind of like, I’m a bit relived about that.

"It’s like six months ahead of me again. So basically I’m almost there. So I’m gonna be competing in a lot of grappling competitions and then I’m gonna compete in Abu Dhabi [at the ADCC submission grappling championships], and next thing I know I’ll be back in the UFC and we’ll be right and fighting again. But this is an experience and I warn the young fighters out there [to] be more careful and do not trust anyone to give [you] any supplements, any drinks, and take this very serious because they can screw your career. It happened to me and it can happen to anyone."

Even though Lombard is close to 40, the welterweight seemed confident that he could become one of those rare athletes who compete successfully into middle-age. "As long as you’re healthy and as long as you haven’t taken that beating in your few fights, I think that you’re still a younger fighter," he said.

"I call myself a younger fighter for that reason. I mean, my reflexes are still there, my strength is still there, and I’ve been doing Judo and wrestling and grappling with all these guys. I feel better now than last year. So, I don’t know. I mean, who knows when I’m going to be finished. But, right now, I feel great. There’s a few people, like Bernard Hopkins — he’s 50 years old, 55. George Foreman and all these people — they were like over 50 [and] they still fight.

"I’m not saying I’m going to be still fighting when I’m 50, but…I feel young. I mean training with all these younger guys at the gym, and [to be] still faster than them, and still stronger than them…trust me, when you see it at the gym that the strength is not there and the power is not there, reflexes are gone, [then] yeah, it’s time for you to call it a day. Because everything happens in the gym, first."