Sometimes it’s hard to see the silver lining in a crappy situation. Everyone has those moments where they drop on their knees and shake their fists to the sky shouting, “Why have you forsaken me?” Okay…maybe not that dramatic, but when luck isn’t on your side, it’s easy to blame the cards you’re dealt without finding any positives.

Most of the time, though, we can look back and see that maybe that bump in the road wasn’t so bad after all. In the case of Colorado fighter Lorawnt-T Nelson, a nagging shoulder injury sidelined him from competing in MMA, but it also gave birth to a budding Muay Thai kickboxing career.

Nelson (R) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Nelson (R) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Nelson’s love for combat sports, like many, was instantaneous the moment he stepped into the LA Boxing gym and took a class.

“I fell in love with it right away, and just kept on going,” said Nelson in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “Six months later, I had my first MMA fight.”

The transition from training to competing may seem quick to some, but Nelson, who moved from South Africa to the United States permanently when he was 13, has been an athlete practically his whole life.

“Really, all I did [in South Africa] was school and sports,” he said. “I couldn’t really just do things on my own without having adults around or parents, because it could get real dangerous a lot of places out there.”

Nelson had already played rugby, water polo and lacrosse, but after moving to Colorado he found new joys, like skiing and hiking. “Smash” also recalled how the freedom to go off by himself was nice, as opposed to South Africa, where the high crime rate is a looming threat.

Although his parents were concerned for him when he first started his career path as a fighter. Once they saw how committed he was to the sport, however, they gave Nelson their full support.

“They enjoy it a lot now. They come to all my fights,” said Nelson, now 23 years old. “I can always hear my mom screaming in the crowd.”

Nelson hasn’t competed in MMA since November 2012, though. After almost a year of dealing with constant pain in his shoulder, he finally decided to undergo surgery.

“My shoulder would just pop in and out for no reason. I had really bad motion and just a lot of pain always,” said Nelson. “I had slight tears in my rotator cuff and my labrum.

“It had been bad for about eight or nine months. I did three fights with it bad. I just got cortisone shots put in and went with it. It probably wasn’t the best idea, but I needed the fights at the time. I fell really hard skiing a little while before then, and that was the last straw.”

Nelson (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Nelson (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Waiting for his shoulder to fully heal meant that Nelson couldn’t deal with the wear and tear of grappling. Since he was only focusing on his stand-up technique, he decided to compete in a kickboxing match and ended up victorious even though it was at 170 pounds, a weight division higher than where he normally competes.

“I had my first pro Muay Thai fight Nov. 16, 2013,” said Nelson. “That’s what I’m doing again Feb. 7, 2014. I’m going to still do MMA again in the future. Just right now I’m really focusing on doing Muay Thai. I’m also focusing on takedowns, takedown defense and ground game so when I do decide to come back, I’m ready for that.”

We have seen a number of fighters transition between kickboxing and mixed martial arts, including Alistair Overeem, Tyrone Spong, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Pat Barry. The sport of kickboxing has had a revival, of sorts, with Glory World Series landing a deal with Spike TV.

“That’s one of our plans right now,” said Nelson on making it to a promotion like Glory. “That’s what my coaches, my manager and myself are all focusing on right now.”

Other ideas in the works include going out to Thailand to train in the region where Muay Thai originated.

“It definitely interests me a lot,” said Nelson. “After a couple more fights, I hope to do that. My kickboxing coach here at [Grudge Training Center], Bryan Youngs, has talked about going out there with me soon. He and I will probably go out to Thailand and stay for a couple months, and see the kickboxing life and live it. We’ll bring that back to Grudge with us.”

Regardless of future plans, Nelson still realizes that he is very new to the sport and has a lot of ground to cover before getting the call to the big leagues. His journey there continues with a 155-pound fight with Jonathon Wyderko at Paramount Prize Fighting 5 in Denver.

Lorawnt-T would like to thank Grudge Training Center. Nelson fights this Friday, Feb. 7, at PFC 5. For tickets and more info on the card, visit the PFC website. For more information on Nelson, check out his Facebook.

About The Author

Zach Miller
Staff Writer

Zach is a Boston native and has had a fascination with martial arts since playing Mortal Kombat at five years old. He was introduced to MMA after watching The Ultimate Fighter 5: Team Pulver vs. Team Penn. A recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Zach seeks to one day become a full-time MMA journalist. In addition to watching the sport, he has also trained in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and tae kwon do. Zach has also written for NortheastMMA.