Med school can wait, MMA is now for former Gophers wrestler Lentz

  • Updated: December 13, 2013 - 1:04 AM

UFC fighter Nik "The Carny" Lentz had a light workout at the Academy in Brooklyn Center on Monday July 11,2011.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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When he dropped out of medical school to pursue mixed martial arts full-time in 2005, Nik Lentz hoped it would lead to big moments. Lentz, a former Gophers wrestler, has the chance to take the spotlight Saturday. He is the No. 8-ranked featherweight, and he carries a 26-5-2 record into a meeting with No. 1-ranked Chad Mendes in a nationally televised Ultimate Fighting Championship bout (7 p.m., Ch. 9). We had a chance to catch up with Lentz on a few subjects Thursday:


• On where Saturday’s bout ranks in his career: “It’s the most current one, so it’s the most important. All my other past fights have just led up to this point. I’m looking forward to getting in there and showing everyone that I’m the real deal, and I’m the No. 1 contender in the world.”

• On how he evolved from wrestling into MMA: “Wrestling just never clicked. It wasn’t right. I was very good at it. I enjoyed the working out part, but there just wasn’t something right. I decided to try MMA, and the second I did it I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life. A lot of people thought I was insane to drop out of medical school and put 100 percent of my effort into fighting. It was probably a crazy decision, but it has worked out. It’s the only way I know how to do something.”

• On facing Mendes: “Everybody in the top 10 is good in some way. He’s obviously a very talented fighter, but I don’t think he does anything better than me. I think I’m a better striker, I’m a better grappler, I have more heart than him and I’m tougher than him. ... The only thing he’s had is more recent exposure, and now it’s my time.”

• On a typical week of training: “I train anywhere from six to 10 hours a day, just the physical part. And maybe one to two hours of studying, talking strategy. I probably put in 10-12 hours a day on fighting.”

• On how he got the nickname ‘The Carny’: “I was in Japan helping a teammate, and at that point in my fighting career I was extremely broke. I decided I was going to go to a Japanese arcade, and I wound up winning so many stuffed animals and toys that Japanese people were taking pictures with me. They thought it was amazing. An old lady said I was like a carnival person.”


Michael Rand

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