Roy Nelson as a coach? Oh, dear.

Fans never know what they’re going to get with each new season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Zuffa LLC’s reality show. TUF puts up-and-coming professional MMA fighters from around the world on two teams, competing in a tournament format over the course of several weeks. The prize for the winning fighter, or fighters in some cases, is a six-figure UFC contract.

UFC President Dana White and the show’s producers choose the head coaches for each team months in advance of each season’s filming. Part of that selection process is finding two current UFC fighters from the same weight class who are willing to fight each other at the end of the season, so it is of utmost importance that the coaches are relevant fighters.

As can be assumed, not all professional fighters, relevant or not, have the personality or wherewithal to coach others. In fact, in the seven and a half year history of the show, while most of the coaches have been pretty good trainers and brought some great help with them, a few of the coaches have been horrid, at best.

Since the show’s inception, critics, in the form of fans, writers, sponsors and other MMA professionals, have judged the coaching from one season to the next. Comparisons can range from their win-loss records to their personal issues, but rarely has anyone discussed the X-factor that really draws the lines between a great coach, a sufficient coach and a poor coach.

The two most infamous “bad” coaching performances were by Ken Shamrock in season three and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in season 10, which was actually Rampage’s second stint as a coach.

The two famed fighters could not have been worse coaches.

Shamrock, at age 41, was obviously past his prime as a fighter and had a previous beef with Tito Ortiz, his longtime rival. He made the contest all about him, letting his fighters down and making a mockery of the contest and himself. Shamrock absolutely dropped the ball from a coaching standpoint, but his problems were primarily with Ortiz. Nonetheless, his fighters did not deserve to have a coach that was so involved with his own emotions that he had no focus on his fighters, whose futures he was responsible for.

In the case of Rampage during season 10, he was even more self-centered than Shamrock. Both coaches did a poor job of focusing on their own teams, but Rampage was so focused on his beef with Rashad Evans, the opposing coach, that, not only did he lose focus on his own team, he took to ridiculing the fighters from Evans’ team.

In an incredibly classless display, Rampage, while his team was losing rather regularly, even came up with insulting nicknames for the fighters on the other team. He referred to one of the guys on Evans’ team as “titties,” because of that fighter’s body composition, even though he was actually a solid, respectable fighter.

Both Rampage and Shamrock were so involved with their own issues that they completely neglected their teams, and, even with the help of their own trainers, completely failed to support the guys that the competition existed for. Their performances were totally classless at best, and both of them were so self-centered, nobody could ever mistake them for effective coaches.

Rampage and Shamrock both seemed to have proven that there is no possible way to be a worse coach for a group of up-and-coming professional fighters. That is, until the current season.

For the sixteenth installment of the franchise, Dana White and company made the huge mistake of pitting one of the classiest heavyweights ever, Shane Carwin, against one of the worst role models in the history of the UFC.

Roy Nelson, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, has an extremely impressive record for a guy that’s 17-7. Six of his seven losses are to Ben Rothwell, Andrei Arlovski, Jeff Monson, Junior dos Santos, Frank Mir and Fabricio Werdum. Needless to say, Nelson has only lost to the best of the best. But, he has also beaten Mario Rinaldi, Stefan Struve, Brendan Schaub and Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic. He was a perennial contender and heavyweight champ in the now-defunct IFL, and has made a heck of an impact in the UFC, going 4-3 with all wins coming by knockout and having never been stopped.

The only problem?

Roy Nelson’s attitude is pathetic at best. He constantly complains about trivial stuff that no other fighter has the gall to complain about and, in his appearance as a contender on The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights, he showed up slovenly and out of shape.

Nelson actually won the tenth installment of the franchise with a quick and devastating knockout of Schaub to earn the UFC contract. However, during that season, he boasted about his rather large belly and poor diet. This is not exactly a good image for a sport where physical fitness is important, especially for the younger weight classes.

Well, Nelson is now the coach of a group of welterweight contenders, a class where weight can be difficult to make with many of the fighters traditionally walking around twenty pounds heavy.

Nelson began making a ridiculous display before the competition even began, by requesting Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Kurt Angle as part of his coaching staff, both of which have contracts with TNA, the professional wrestling organization, which airs on Spike TV, a competitor to FX, which airs TUF. In an even bigger joke, one of the other coaches he requested was Victor Conte, the infamous founder of BALCO, who served time in prison for distributing steroids and money laundering.

Obviously, Nelson was not given approval to add these guys to his staff, which he complained about in a much-expected fashion.

The multiple attempts to make a mockery of Dana White and the UFC have obviously created a huge rift between Nelson and White. Nelson is apparently unfamiliar with the concept of “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” For some reason, he feels that he transcends the organization, which is a bold attitude for a guy that is not considered a hot item by any means, and will most likely not have a job with Zuffa in the near future.

Now that Nelson is a TUF coach, he is definitely the worst in the show’s history.

Since the first episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson aired in mid-September, Nelson has complained about not being treated fairly, whined about Carwin receiving assistance from his coaches, and even interfered with his own fighters’ training.

On a recent episode, one of his fellow coaches had to tell him to butt out of a training session, but he continued to ridicule his own guy, off-task. That fighter, Julian Lane, ended up losing his fight to Bristol Marunde.

In recent comments, Nelson even alluded to the fact that he would like to fight Dana White. The guy is not only biting the hand that feeds him, but he is now going back for more. Nelson also stated that his wife is pregnant now, so he has more skin in the game. If that’s the case, then why lose focus on the guys he’s responsible for just to piss off his boss?

It takes a certain X-factor to be a coach in any sport. It all starts with self-sacrifice and loyalty to team, neither of which Nelson possesses. While Shamrock and Rampage had their petty issues with their opposing coaches, at least they wanted their teams to win as some sort of revenge.

Nelson doesn’t even care about his team. All he cares about is his beef with his boss and his continuous insecurity about how he is treated.

Unfortunately for Team Nelson, they are stuck with the poorest coach in the history of TUF, and one can only hope that they are able to fight through and put on a good show, because most of these guys are looking for long and successful careers in UFC, a goal that takes hard work and perseverance to achieve. None of them should be dragged down by a coach that only cares about himself.

Photo: Roy Nelson (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator
  • Jefe

    I honestly cannot believe how sad he is at coaching his team… Zuffa/DW has to re-evaluate what the hell they are doing…

    Roy might be a past TUF champion but he certainly is losing all cred with this performance… I actually used to like the guy… not anymore … the only thing I do like is how he tools DW

  • Frankiepals

    I agree with most of what you had said, but to say Roy Nelson does not possess self sacrifice is a bit off target. The was basically JDS’s personal punching bag for 3 rounds in their fight, something not too many could not have achieved. I understand why you say it, due to his selfishness and physical appearance, but at the end of the day the man gets into the cage and is very exciting to watch.

  • DanK

    Actually, the “self-sacrifice” comment was from a coaching standpoint, not a fighting standpoint. The article applauds Nelson as a fighter. His selfishness is as a coach. His toughness displayed in the JDS fight has nothing to do with his poor coaching mentality.