By Dean Maier & Clarence Paller
Step into the ring with heavyweight wrestler and MMA fighter, Bobby Lashley, AKA “The Dominator,” and it will become clear that he has earned his nickname. Weighing in at 239 pounds of muscle and standing tall at 6’3, he is an absolute force to be reckoned with. Lashley’s trail of accolades spans across the WWE, TNA and Bellator, including a devastating 15 - 2 record in Bellator with 5 fights won by TKO. Power, agility, drive and dedication are just a few traits that can be attributed to Bobby. But even for such a man, the road to glory is paved in the blood, sweat and tears needed to overcome both the gruelling demands of the sport and its fierce competitors.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. For Bobby, an adamant passion for training hard is something that was instilled in him early on, and part of what got him to where he is, but this isn’t the only reason for his success. The distinct confidence and energy he exudes comes from an understanding of what it truly means to be the best. Lashley’s constant push to evolve and adapt isn’t just about his career, it’s about the drive to master the many challenges both in and outside of the ring – the will to dominate.
The Heart of a Conqueror
Bobby’s athletic journey began with amateur wrestling in high school and college. Though Lashley’s first love was football, he was physically small in his early days so it was difficult to compete in the sport. Refusing to be discouraged by his limitations, he turned to wrestling and in a month he was hooked. Wrestling helped to level the playing field because he could go up against people his own size and beat them through his raw talent and sheer force of will. “It came naturally to me” says Lashley.
Coming from a low-income, working class family, Bobby didn’t have much growing up. Despite a lack of material resources, a belief that he had the drive to succeed was enough. “I hated it at the time. Not having things working in the house, no hot water, nothing to eat. Growing up I always told myself, if I work hard, I won’t have to put up with this anymore.” He continued his push into the world of grappling which eventually led him to the Olympic Training Center for Wrestling. His time here greatly amplified his abilities and ultimately propelled him into the first major breakthrough of his career, the WWE. The training and conditioning it took to get Lashley to this point was immense, and is definitively the source of is incredible athletic work ethic.
Fast and Furious Training
Accelerated and constantly evolving is the nature of Lashley’s approach to training. This was especially true in the early days of his career. “Before I’d workout 18 times a day and kill myself doing it. I used to train like a mad man. I had an intense regime. I would wake up every day and do my 5 am weight training and after that do drills at noon and then come back at three or four pm for training again. Then at night I’d hit cardio. I accomplished a lot, but I was taking it to the extreme,” says Bobby. The essence of his vigorous routine is that of a man working like he won’t have a second chance, yet it is this very “can do” approach which enabled him to later transition into the world of MMA.
For a man that competes in both professional MMA and wrestling, Bobby claims he tries to slow things down a bit these days; “I’m [an] older athlete so I don’t want to break my body completely down. Saying that, I still need to get the work in. I do strength and conditioning three times a week. In the morning, it is more athletic and explosive training and lifting. During the day I try to get a boxing session in to work through fight tactics.” To support his focused training regime, Bobby relies on supplements to help provide recovery and nutrition. He proudly states, “I love Nutrabolics products, I train so hard where I deplete myself so Athletes Food is perfect for me. It is a blend of carbs and proteins that also replenishes my glucose.” Regardless of the careful consideration that goes into Lashley’s workout and diet schedule, he has thrived in his later years by learning to train and fight smarter rather than just harder. This connection between being both powerful and versatile gives him his confident edge.
With the wisdom of one who understands the correlation between circumstances, actions and outcomes, Bobby views strength training not just as physical “fitness”, but a direct link to his fight conditioning. “You have to train with the fight in mind. You can’t just [randomly lift weights]. Your strength training is conditioning; it can’t be separate. My trainer is very good at pushing my limits and allowing me to create more stop and go power. That’s what you need in fights. It is all about going for a minute and stopping, then repeating. He who can recover quicker will be more dominant towards the end of in the fight. This style of training doesn’t lend itself to one name, I follow this principle in every form of training from HIIT, to interval to CrossFit etc.” Understanding and creating synergy between his training and fighting represents a unique form of adaptability for Bobby. It is why he remains as effective as he is.
At its core, the key to Bobby’s dominance in the ring is understanding context while possessing the flexibility to perceive situations, the skill to modify tactics, and the raw will to overcome. “In a fight you need to be able to adjust to your opponent over the rounds in order to beat them. Bobby’s adaptive nature derives both in his explosive training and in his powerful wrestling skill-set. In a fight, grappling is always in Bobby’s back pocket, he says, “it’s a damn good ‘go to’ when a fight is going sideways.” His favorite submission – the rear naked choke – is telling of his will to overpower his opponents. “When you get this move on another fighter it is because you have applied so much pressure and on them, and they are trying to get away from you. The person is retreating”, explains Lashley.
Beyond possessing the dynamic skillset to out-play and out-power his competitors, part of Lashley’s confidence also derives from his comfort with the spotlight of big public sports platforms like the WWE or Bellator.
When Bobby steps into the octagon with a million people watching, he feels an extreme calm take over. “I feel like I am in my zone. I can slow down or speed up time. I can choose how I experience that moment. I fight because I enjoy the competition. I go out there and just experience it.” Where the epic spectacle of a fight would be daunting to some, Bobby’s casual attitude towards it gives him an incredible resilience and mental advantage.
Fighting always comes with its share of mental setbacks and challenges, particularly in terms of the psychology of loss. A mental tool Bobby uses is to tell himself repeatedly, “I am bigger than that.” Even in the face of adversity, such as a loss, Bobby explains, “it is about redemption. I tell myself, I can’t go out like that. I am better. I am stronger. Some people break and don’t come back, but I have never been like that. Always remember, a setback is a set up for a comeback. When you are hungry you go hard and a loss is a shake up to make you hungry again.”
Taming the Beast
The monster that is the entertainment industry poses its own threat to athletes susceptible to fall victim to its habits and disconnected identities. Every athlete has their niche which is amplified by the spot light and marketing campaigns, but when athletes invest so heavily into fabricated egos under the unforgiving nature of public opinion, it can derail their entire career. Bobby notes, “A lot of guys destroy their brand, but I get it. I will stay successful, have fun, and be positive all the way through the process.” From the publicity to the social media and trash talk, Lashley understands it’s all part of the package. He does not allow it to weigh on his mind or lose focus on the bigger picture.
Part of how Bobby remains dynamic in his ability to overcome the challenges of sports entertainment is not by trying to put on facades, but by owning his identity. The foundation for this level of wisdom and understanding was created in part by his former employer, WWE CEO, Vince McMahon. Bobby recalls a point early in his WWE career when he was trying to discover his persona. Vince told him, “Figure out who you are. Be who you are and turn the volume up.”
Taking the grandiosity of the industry in stride, Bobby recalls the time when he defended current US President Donald Trump at WrestleMania 23. “This was the match where Trump or McMahon would be shaved bald if their wrestler lost. Stone Cold Steve Austin officiated the match as Team Trump took the win!” While this experience was a memorable one for Lashley, he understands that at the end of the day the glamour and spectacle of his career doesn’t define his success in full. Where the fame and glory of working in the image-driven entertainment industry is enough to make even the most level-headed athlete a narcissist, Bobby manages to achieve a marked level of success while staying true to himself and remaining humble.
Coming Full Circle
The source of Bobby’s humility can be traced back to his tough life circumstances growing up. He explains, “My parents came from Panama, and told me stories about how they grew up. They lived in poverty. It was the same for me when I was growing up – we didn’t have a lot. I was one of four kids from a single parent household. When I finally began to see success this upbringing reminded me to be thankful for what I have, keeping me grounded.”Eventually becoming a parent himself has also had a profound effect on Bobby’s career. His kids inspire and motivate him every day to compete and win. Bobby will do whatever it takes to provide for them. He never wants them to know the kind of hardships he experienced as a child, though this doesn’t mean handing them things in life. Rather, he wants to instill his son and two daughters with the same tenacious work ethic that brought him to where he is today.
“THERE WILL BE A TIME WHERE I WILL NO LONGER BE ABLE TO FIGHT; BUT UNTIL I REACH THAT TIME I WILL DO EVERYTHING HUMANLY POSSIBLE TO KEEP GOING.”
Never Stop Pushing
Despite all that he is accomplished, Bobby isn’t satisfied to just ride the wave he is on. They say that the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. Where many sports entertainment stars rise, fall, and fade into oblivion, Lashley doesn’t want this for himself. With a Bellator title still ahead of him, he knows there is yet much work to be done.
Bobby possesses both an inherent ability and practiced conditioning to overcome and master the diverse challenges in his life. His optimistic view of his own potential and drive to evolve have been the guiding force in his ability to dominate both in the ring and in life. “I think you should try to test yourself on a daily basis. That’s what I try to do. That is why I fight. That is why I pro wrestle. That is why I go to the gym. That is why I am a single father. I do all these different things because I always say that I can do it. Because one day there will be a time where I will no longer be able to fight; but until I reach that time I will do everything humanly possible to keep going.”