Interview: Jim Ross Talks UFC, Brock Lesnar, Muhammad Ali & AJ Styles In WWE

WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross will be making his return to pro wrestling announcing on January 4, 2015, as he will be calling Global Force Wrestling’s presentation of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 9 live on PPV. JR has kept busy since his 2013 WWE departure, launching his ‘Ross Report’ podcast, taking a one man show on tour, and announcing MMA and boxing fights. Ross told AlternativeNation.net’s Sports section that he is in good health after facing some tough challenges, as he is now working out with a personal trainer 3 times a week and quit smoking a year ago. JR used Ambien for 10 years, unaware of the damage it was doing to him or knowing that it was a short term solution for sleep problems. The Ambien use led to Ross suffering memory loss and being placed in the stroke unit of a hospital. JR also suffered from diverticulitis during his time in WWE, but after all of these issues, Good Ol’ JR is doing just fine now. Ross said, “I haven’t felt this good probably in 20 years.”

JR is excited to call Wrestle Kingdom 9 at the Tokyo Dome, “The presentation of New Japan is kind of a throwback in ways, but with a modern influence. They do a lot of things fundamentally more sound than their American counterparts are doing. I’m looking forward to doing that, and calling matches for a whole new set of guys. But the fundamental things of what they do are the things I cut my teeth on, and really missed doing my last couple of years in WWE.”

AJ Styles is one prominent talent well known by American ans who will be wrestling at the event, and JR thinks WWE are missing the boat by now signing him. “AJ Styles would fit into any structure, it’s just a matter of decision makers having an open mind and be willing to utilize him to his skills, and not stereotype him because he isn’t the biggest guy in the locker room. He’s as good a performer as anybody WWE has right now from bell to bell. He’s an amazing athlete, and he’s perfected his craft, he’s a lifelong fan, he doesn’t drink or have a drug problem, he’s a good family man, he’s everything you would want.”

“Even if he didn’t get the top push, he’s going to earn his way to near the top of the card, and everybody that he works with, especially the young guys, are going to be better performers having been able to work with the guy with his experience and abilities. He’s having a blast in New Japan, the first night he came in they put their top title on him, so that automatically established him as a star. Now he’s got this Bullet Club thing around him, like the nWo kind of.”

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Ross also wants to do more MMA broadcasting, but there aren’t many options available outside of UFC and Bellator. Ross may do a boxing event coming up, as there are more openings available in boxing. “A lot of the fighters are old wrestling fans. When they were kids, they were watching wrestling. So if they’re not long in the tooth, and they were watching wrestling, they were likely listening to me. So it breaks the ice when you go have fighters meetings, they’re more giving of their information, and their time, and they help you out. That’s why we had so much fun at that MMA fight we did. I told Chael, ‘You will tell the people about the man, the fighter. I will tell the people about the man, the every day guy. Kids, wife, and their previous career.’”

While Ross has been a longtime UFC fan, he enjoyed Bellator’s latest special featuring Tito Ortiz vs. Stephan Bonnar, “Primarily, I’ve always been a UFC guy. I’ve been with them since 1993 or 1994, so I’m a UFC guy at heart, but I enjoy sampling new MMA. So for me, Bellator’s most recent show was new, because they were doing something live, they were doing something for the first time with Scott Coker as their head guy on a big live extravaganza that was on the level of a PPV. The main event was just okay, it had a lot more sizzle than it did steak, but they built it up very nicely, much like a wrestling angle, so it captured my curiosity, but it wasn’t a great fight. It was an entertaining fight to get ready for, but by the end of the third round, you pretty well knew that both guys tanks are just about empty.

He added, “Because Bonnar’s pace was so sporadic in the 2nd, and especially the 3rd round, it allowed Tito to settle in at a very deliberate pace, and essentially just counter punch. But we don’t know how Tito would have fared if the fight had been at a faster pace, and Bonnar had more jet fuel in his tank, it just didn’t work out that way. But the bottom line is I enjoyed the build up to the fight, I enjoyed the rhetoric, I enjoyed the sizzle around the cage, I thought that Spike did a nice job.”

JR also gave his predictions on Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz, “Diaz is going to have a cult following, a lot of people like the bad boys, a lot of people like the villain wrestlers. A lot of people are just defiant, and like to go against tradition, or what is perceived to be good. Anderson Silva is a living legend in that game that is overcoming a very serious injury in his late 30’s to come back and try to regain his past glory. It’s just too good a story, and too easy a story to tell, so I think it’s going to be a real interesting dynamic. It should be a hell of a fight, I think depending on how much rust Silva has, and how healthy he’s become, it remains to be seen how the fight will go, although obviously Anderson is going to be a heavy favorite. But Diaz will make the fight interesting, entertaining, and compelling. I think if the announcers, which I’m sure they will, will tell the story of the legendary Anderson Silva and his career threatening injury, and he’s fighting a very unorthodox, unique, complex fighter in Nick Diaz. It’s an easy show to sell, but I do think Anderson will win it, but it should be really interesting.”

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Conor McGregor has recently made waves in the MMA world for his charismatic personality, and Jim Ross told an interesting story about Brock Lesnar and Muhammad Ali when it comes to fighters taking on the role of the perceived villain. “In the early days of Brock Lesnar in UFC, I would suggest that more people paid to see Brock get his ass whooped than paid to see him win. But once he won, and everybody saw what kind of beast he was, he was a legit beast, he wasn’t a fake wrestler, he was a former NCAA champion and All American, that’s the part of Brock Lesnar that they gravitated to.”

“But there’s always going to be a segment of the MMA community that is going to cheer for Lesnar to lose, if and when he comes back for another run after his diverticulitis issues, but that’s the beauty of it. Muhammad Ali told me one time, back in the 80’s, that he realized early in his career that he could make more money as a boxer, as a black man in a white man’s business as far as management and TV contracts, and distribution of PPV dollars, he said, ‘I realized my place as a fighter would be enhanced if I put myself in a position where the fans pay more money to see me lose than they would to see me win.’ It was at that point in his career where he became a Muslim, he refused to go into the military, etc., it was like a wrestling writer was writing his script because everything he did was going to guarantee him to be a villain. When he came back he was vilified for a long time until people started understanding him, and seeing his religion was legitimate, and he wasn’t anti-American, and he become this universally loved hero in the latter part of his career, when he was getting his brain scrambled.”

Ross added, “If [Connor McGregor] can fight as well he he can talk, he’s going to make himself a fortune.”

JR also predicted that Daniel Cormier will beat Jon Jones, and raved about Ronda Rousey. “She’s my favorite MMA fighter. She has legit star power and a great personality. She’s every promoter’s dream, whether it be pro wrestling, or Hollywood, or MMA, or whatever. She has looks, she has skill, she has intelligence. If I were WWE, if I could make this happen, she would definitely have a role at WrestleMania 31 to do something.”

Check out Jim Ross’ official website , Twitter, and WWEShop to buy his BBQ sauce.

Other recent interviews:

Adam ‘Edge’ Copeland, Kurt Angle, Kane, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Jeff Hardy, Eric Bischoff, and Hornswoggle.

Interview conducted by Mike Nagel

Article written by Brett Buchanan