Bobby Lashley always has been in a hurry to get to the top of the heavyweight division, and he's getting less and less shy about asking for what he wants – namely, the Strikeforce title.
First, he has to get through Chad Griggs (8-1 MMA, 0-0 SF) at "Strikeforce: Houston" on Aug. 21. On paper, Griggs is his toughest test yet. But if he earns a win, Lashley wants a shot at the belt in early 2011.
"I'm staying ready," Lashley (5-0 MMA, 1-0 SF) today said. "I've been training really hard, and I'm going to continue to train after this fight."
Lashley has not fought since his promotional debut in January at "Strikeforce: Miami," where he defeated UFC veteran Wes Sims by first-round TKO. He was due to face Ron Sparks five months later at "Strikeforce: Los Angeles" but injured his knee and was forced to bow out.
In an earlier interview with MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com), the former WWE "pro wrestler" said he feels pressure to "fast track" his professional career for fans who want to see if he's the real deal. As a former collegiate wrestling standout, he won three amateur wrestling titles at Missouri Valley College and won a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national championship.
But he is still green in MMA, and he has yet to face a marquee fighter. Now that he's back on the horse, he intends to change that, and Griggs is a good place to start.
"I think he's right in line for an opponent for me," he said. "Unless they figure I should be fighting Fedor (Emelianenko), who has 31 wins under his belt. I think he's a good test for me."
The 34-year-old Lashley said he recently returned to the famed American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., and got a good read on his skills when he worked out with UFC heavyweight contender Cain Velasquez and Strikeforce standout Danier Cormier.
"I'm really confident where my level is," he said. "After this fight, if this fight goes the way I hope it goes, I'm going straight to the top. I know where my abilities are."
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker is supportive of Lashley's goals and believes the fighter can be a future contender.
"Even before he fought for us and he had a couple of MMA fights, I always said to myself, 'God, this guy's an amazing athlete. ... What's Bobby going to look like in 18 months?'" Coker said. "What's he going to look like a year from now?' With his ability to wrestle ... the sky's the limit."
However, the promoter shied away from making any predictions as to when Lashley will get his wish. But before he takes on current champ Alistair Overeem (or whoever has the belt), Lashley first has to get through Griggs.
"We have five of the top heavyweights in the world right now," Coker said. "We have talent that could fight at any level, and Bobby, he'll fit right in there.
"The nice thing about this sport is that if you keep winning, you will get your title shot. Bobby needs to keep winning, and this will be a good test for him in two weeks."
The 32-year-old Griggs recently told MMAjunkie.com that Strikeforce wants Lashley to win and might be primed to be upset. With seven TKO or KO victories, he plans to test the former wrestler's chin.
Lashley said he'll stand and strike if needed, but he claims there's no way Griggs – or anyone for that matter – will stop his takedown. He feels confident that his top-level training will pay off on Aug. 21 and beyond.
"I don't take any time off," Lashley said. "I like to try to stay in shape, and I like to learn. After this fight, I'm just going to keep training, and hopefully I get that title shot next year."