UFC 150’s Nik Lentz: “Now That I’m Going To Be At 145 Pounds, It’s Like A New Beginning.”
By Tom Taylor
At UFC 150, which goes down in Denver, Colorado on August 11, former UFC lightweight Nik Lentz will make his featherweight debut against Japanese veteran Eiji Mitsuoka. While he was not without success at lightweight, Lentz hopes to rejuvenate his career as part of the 145 pound division.
So far, he says his preparation for his date with Mitsuoka has been fruitful.
“It’s been great. [My training] has been completely revamped,” Lentz told Full Contact Fighter. “I’ve got new strength and conditioning coaches, I’ve got a new nutritionist, I’ve got pretty much a new camp and new coaches. I’ve been working way harder for this fight than I ever have and I feel way better.”
With a total reworking of the way he trains underway, Lentz is hoping for a fresh start at 145 pounds.
“You can take pretty much everything I’ve done and my record at all the other weight classes and throw them out because now that I’m going to be at 145 pounds, it’s like a new beginning. I was already doing pretty well at 155 pounds, but at 145 I’m going to be one of the best.”
Often, when a fighter descends a weight class, the results can do more harm than good. A case in point was the lone middleweight attempt of James Irvin at UFC Live 1, who looked emaciated at the weigh-ins, and was outclassed by Alessio Sakara in his divisional debut. This will not be the case for Lentz, who says his transition to featherweight is coming along flawlessly.
“My weight is going down perfectly. I weigh less now than I would be if I was cutting to 155 in terms of how far I am away from the weight class. The weight cut is going perfect. I’ve been dieting for over four months so everything is going exactly right,” Lentz said.
While he did lose his last two fights at lightweight, Lentz was actually quite successful there, besting the likes of Andre Winner, Tyson Griffin and, most –recently Waylon Lowe. Despite his aptitude as a lightweight, when Lentz found out a drop to featherweight was an option, it was too exciting an opportunity for him to pass up.
“I was just looking to get new trainers after my last fight. I took it on short notice and there were some parts of the fight I wasn’t happy with. I needed to be more explosive and I needed to be in better shape even though I took it on short notice. So I went and got new coaches and a new nutritionist. I talked to Mike Dolce and he talked to me about going to ‘45. I never thought it was a real possibility but he was like ‘I can get you there for sure’. So I started working on it and dieting and I saw my weight going down. I saw that it was possible and at that point I made the decision that my next fight would be at 145 pounds”
In working with Mike Dolce, Lentz has aligned himself with arguably the most renowned nutritionist in MMA. Based on the results he is seeing in himself, Lentz believes Dolce’s fame is well-deserved.
“He knows something because I haven’t been this light since I was in 7th grade.” The logistics of adapting to a new division aside, at UFC 150 he will face a well-versed veteran in Mitsuoka—a challenge Lentz and his coaching staff are taking very seriously.
“I’ve been training at American Top Team and every single coach here has gone over his (Mitsuoka’s) videos, watched him extensively and emulated him. We’ve been working 100% for Mitsuoka, so I know the guy better than anyone I’ve ever had to fight.” While the grappling skills of Mitsuoka, who holds 11 of his 18 career wins by submission, are impossible to ignore, Lentz says he is most wary of his Japanese opponent’s experience, and is prepared to face the wiliness only a true veteran can bring into the cage.
“He’s been fighting a long time. He’s definitely a veteran of the game. He’s not the type of guy you’re going to just destroy instantly. You have to be smart, and watch out. But he does a few goofy things and I’m going to capitalize on the mistakes that he makes.” In contrast, Lentz believes his opponent will have his hands full from bell to bell when they enter the octagon together.
“(He needs to be careful of) everything— everything I’ve been doing has been to become the most well-rounded fighter around,” Lentz said. “I’m a new person. When I go out there he’s going to be really surprised.” As to how he’d like the fight to unfold, Lentz says has no preference, but plans to apply pressure from the get-go.
“I’m going to take it to him. Wherever the fight goes, that’s where it goes. If he thinks he can outlast me or anything, that’s not going to happen. I’m going to be in his face from the beginning and I’m going to have my hand raised.”
Given his previous success in the lightweight division, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see Lentz awarded a more name opponent for his featherweight debut. While Mitsuoka has been competing for a long time, he is relatively unknown to North American fans. To Lentz, however, this is unimportant.
“I had no interest in who it would be (that I fought in my debut) really. As far as I’m concerned everyone you fight in the UFC is one of the best guys in the world, people who don’t think that, they’re wrong. The other organizations don’t have anything on the UFC. Whoever the UFC puts in front of you is going to be a top guy.”
Famous opponent or not, if he beats Mitsuoka, Lentz will be taking his first steps up the featherweight ladder. From there, he does not care whom he fights next, so long as he is moving towards the belt.
“I don’t care. It’s irrelevant. I’m just going to keep winning until eventually I win the belt.”
The man currently atop the featherweight division is the dynamic Jose Aldo. While Lentz is confident in his chances against the current champ, he knows that no champion is safe in the UFC, not even one as dominant as Aldo.
“I feel like I match up fine (with Aldo). But who knows, you put three or four fights together and we’re talking a year, a year and a half, even two years down the road before the title shot is actually a real opportunity. Who knows who’s going to have the belt then? I’m not thinking ahead. The guys are too good in the UFC to be picking how I’m going to win the title. I have to get there first,” Lentz said. “But I feel like I could beat anyone on any given night.”
Before Lentz can begin considering the upper echelon of the division, however, he must first get past Mitsuoka, and when it all goes down on August the 11th, Lentz expects to win the fight following a one-sided beat down.
“It’s going to be me dominating the fight and eventually finishing Mitsuoka.”