Bobby Lashley now has two ways to put opponents to sleep … at least virtually.
First there's the old-school way, the professional wrestling way, taking Lashley's old WWE character and smacking fools around the ring in a dated version of "Smackdown." But now fans of "The Boss" have a new way to knock people senseless, more representative of the new Lashley and his current passion for making opponents lose their will not by script but by brute force, as EA Sports is set to announce the addition of Bobby Lashley to its upcoming "MMA" video game.
"It's cool that I can play as myself in two different kinds of video games now," Lashley tells me over the phone as we talk MMA. "I can either wrestle as myself or fight with myself. I just hope that EA Sports rates me like a 95 or a 96 overall. I hate to lose."
In addition to Lashley, EA Sports is also announcing deals with a few other Strikeforce fighters to appear in the game, including Nick Diaz, Marius Zaromskis, Joe Riggs and Melvin Manhoef.
"Hopefully this means EA will send us some free games," Lashley laughs. "I'm big into the sports games like Madden and Tiger. But from what I've seen of EA's 'MMA' so far, it looks amazing. I had the chance to go down to EA and check it out when it was in its infant stages, but it looks really cool. I think it's really going to blow out our competitor's game."
Jon Robinson: WWE gave you fame and fortune. Why walk away from all the success you were building there and try your hand at MMA?
Bobby Lashley: At the time, I was dealing with some issues with WWE, and at the same time, the schedule was definitely part of it. Being in the wrestling business, it was a whole lot to deal with in a short amount of time. I went from amateur wrestling one minute to the next minute I'm traveling the world and I'm on the road 250 days a year. I think it was more of a shock to me and I wasn't really used to it. I wanted to more step away rather than step completely out.
Robinson: Before you were in WWE, you were training for the Olympics, until you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and almost ended up dead in a bank robbery. Can you explain the scene of what happened and how it altered your career?
Lashley: It was madness. I was actually just going to deposit some money into my account and as soon as I got in line for the teller, I heard a loud "bang" noise. When I heard that, I saw the people in front of me take a dive, and when I saw them dive I dove down also, but on my way down I heard another bang. When I hit the ground, I couldn't hear, and the whole side of my face and my eyes were burning. It happened so quick, I thought I got shot, so everything was crazy for a few minutes. Then when my hearing started coming back, I heard another loud bang, and when I heard that bang I started moving forward, but then I decided just to freeze and not move because I could tell what was going on with all the screaming. But when I was down on the ground, I hated it because I just felt like a target down there. I lay down there for about another 15 minutes, and then finally when the robbers had left, the bank president came out to make sure everyone was all right. But when I got up, I realized that I had landed bad on my knee. When I dove down, my knee hit the ground, which was just carpet over industrialized concrete, and I busted my knee open so bad it ended my amateur wrestling career.
What's crazy about this is after this happened, the doctor told me I needed surgery and was going to be out six to eight months, and the Olympic trials were in eight months. So after the surgery, I was sitting on the couch with my knee in excruciating pain and I had to go back to the hospital and they had to put me in surgery again which took me out another six months, and that means that now, I'm out way past the Olympic trials. So there I am again, just sitting on the couch with my leg in a brace and I hadn't walked in months, when I get a call from WWE. They were asking me if I could come in for a tryout. But it was crazy because I didn't want them to know that I had the surgery, so I told them sure; went down, took off my leg brace and went through the tryout for about a week. When I left, they called me back and offered me a contract. That's the short version of the story, but every day I was down there we were running, doing fireman's carries, learning how to tie-up, and I was just gritting my teeth and bearing it, acting like I wasn't hurt. But every night I would go back to the hotel and I was almost in tears as I wrapped my knee up in ice and prayed that I could make it another day.
I guess you can look at the bank robbery as almost a blessing in disguise. During the robbery, I thought I was done. After 18 years of wrestling, I thought it was all thrown away right there. But then WWE called me and changed the course of my life.
Robinson: Why did you decide to sign with Strikeforce?
Lashley: I was training hard and had my four fights. Then I took a little break after my fourth fight, and I was doing some contract negotiations with a couple of different organizations, but then [Scott] Coker came through and put together a great offer with a great company. Another reason I wanted to sign with Strikeforce is that they have the No. 1 heavyweight. Fedor [Emelianenko] is the No. 1 heavyweight right now, he's unstoppable, so if you want to go somewhere, you want to make sure you have the caliber of competition you need. Fedor is there, Fabricio Werdum, Brett Rogers … there are a lot of guys, so it's going to be fun.
Robinson: I was at the Fedor/Rogers fight. For a second there, I thought Rogers was going to pull off the upset.
Lashley: I know. The myth almost got broke.
Robinson: How far off do you see a potential Lashley/Fedor main event?
Lashley: Coming in to this, I always said that I wanted to take my time, and I still do want to take my time, but I'm not 21-years-old, so I can't take too much time. Hopefully by next year I should be able to get that title shot if everything works out right.
Robinson: You're not only fighting for Strikeforce, but you're also wrestling for TNA. Is it tough to see A.J. Styles walk around with the championship belt knowing that you could just walk over at any time and pound him down for real?
Lashley: [laughs] I gotta say "no comment" on that one. A.J. Styles is great, he's a great performer, so I'm not going to take anything away from him. But when the time comes, the time will come. That's all I have to say about that one.
Robinson: Getting back to the "MMA" game, what do you think is the toughest part of MMA to capture in a video game?
Lashley: Emotion. I think that's always something that's hard to capture in any game. But if they can somehow add an aggression level and momentum, that would be huge, because when you're out there for real and you hit someone with a good shot, your aggression is going to be up and your momentum is going to be up and you're going to be rockin' and rollin'. If they could put that in the game, that would be cool.
Robinson: Can you see it in your opponent's eyes when you're starting to get the upper hand?
Lashley: Yeah, and the Rogers/Fedor fight is a prime example. When Brett was rockin', he was rockin', but Fedor stayed calm. He was waiting for his opening, then he got his one big shot in there and won it.
Robinson: You have a big fight on Saturday. How hard is it for you to train without knowing who your opponent was going to be for so long?
Lashley: It's hard training, but until I get to a level where I'm being put up against Werdum, or Fedor, or Rogers, where I have to really hone in on a fight, I'm OK with just fighting whoever on whatever notice. When I signed my contract, it was only a month and a half before my fight, so I can't expect them to have everything in place right then and there. It's not a problem to me.
Robinson: What's the best advice someone has given you about transferring your wrestling skills to MMA?
Lashley: It's just about being willing to learn and keeping an open mind. A lot of wrestlers come into it and they're just about trying to wrestle and taking their opponents down. It works, but it only works to a certain level. You really need to humble yourself to learn every aspect of the game, and that's what I'm trying to do. Being at American Top, we have great coaches in every aspect, so I can really just shut up and listen and do what they say. I think that's the best thing I can do with my career.