Lombard to make long-awaited debut
Hector Lombard’s 25-fight unbeaten streak might not get the recognition it deserves because the run occurred exclusively outside the UFC.
Lombard, who is set to make his promotion debut at UFC 149 on Saturday, told FOXSports.com there is something else working against him: his reclusive nature and incapability (or unwillingness) to self-promote.
“That goes to the people (that) have all that charisma,” said Lombard, who will take on Tim Boetsch in the co-main event in Calgary, Alberta. “Some people can make others like them. Unfortunately, that’s not my personality. I will always be criticized.”
Lombard’s resume might lack UFC matches, but it’s impressive nonetheless. He starred in Bellator, winning the organization’s middleweight crown before he signed on with the UFC earlier this year. Eight of his past 14 fights have ended in first-round stoppages, a testament to just how physically imposing the 34-year-old is in the Octagon.
His circuitous route to MMA stardom is nearly as impressive.
Lombard was born in Cuba and competed for his country’s judo team at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Those games took place in Sydney, where Lombard met a woman he would end up marrying.
“It wasn’t a defection,” Lombard said sternly. “I fell in love with Australia when I went to Sydney for the Olympics. I also wanted to pursue a career in professional fighting, and I felt that Australia would provide me an excellent opportunity to do so.”
No matter how he terms it, Lombard settled in Queensland, Australia, after the Olympics. In 2001, he became an Australian citizen. He knew little to no English at the time, easily the most frustrating part of the emigration.
“It was very difficult,” Lombard said. “I believe what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Then, Lombard made what might be his first attempt at humor in an interview.
“I have a telegraphic memory,” he said before letting loose a chuckle. “I just watched TV and picked it up right away. No, it actually took me a couple years to understand what people are saying. English is a tough language to pick up. The same word can have like 20 different meanings. A lot of words sound alike. It’s unbelievable.”
A seemingly easier transition for Lombard was translating his judo background into a style more befitting mixed martial arts.
He made his pro MMA debut at an event in Australia’s Gold Coast in September 2004, a bout he won via decision. Lombard (32-2-1 with one no contest) has yet to be submitted or knocked out; the only two losses of his MMA career — both in Pride in 2006 — were by decision.
Lombard is satisfied he has left little doubt in the mind of fans, judges and opponents in his eight-year MMA career, especially on his current win streak.
“I think the reverse is true,” Lombard said. “I think the decision (victories) were easy to judge. You can watch the video and see that I have clearly won those fights.”
Lombard originally was scheduled to headline UFC on FOX 4 in a bout against former WEC light-heavyweight champion Brian Stann on Aug. 4. Then Stann got injured in training. That was followed by an injury to Michael Bisping, who was originally supposed to face Boetsch at UFC 149. The injuries (and UFC matchmakers) not only forced Lombard into a new opponent but cut two weeks off his training schedule.
“His training didn’t change a whole lot after the switch was made,” said Marcus "Conan" Silveira, Lombard’s trainer at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla.
Ricardo Liborio, co-owner of American Top Team, where Lombard has trained the past four years, said that’s because Lombard never deviates.
“Hector is one of those guys you have to drag out of the gym,” Liborio said. “He trains hard every day. He was already pretty well-rounded when he came to us, but he’s taken it up another level with his jiu-jitsu and ground game.”
Liborio said Lombard trains so viciously that he’s had a difficult time keeping a stable of sparring partners for him.
“Nobody wants to train with him,” Liborio said. “A lot of guys have been dinged up because Hector wants to go hard all the time. I get calls from people who want to train at American Top Team, but they specifically say they won’t train with Hector. He certainly has a reputation.”
Just not one yet in the UFC. Even with a victory over Boetsch (15-4), he doesn’t expect immediate recognition.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Lombard said. “That’s the way I’m used to it being. I just deal with it.”