Nik Lentz says he’s never more confident in himself than he is during a fight week.
That was certainly evident when Lentz spoke to Ground & Pound on Wednesday, three days before he steps into the Octagon against Manny Gamburyan on the undercard of “UFC Fight Night: Brown vs. Silva.”
“I’m dangerous,” Lentz said. “He’s not better than me at anything. I’m a better striker, a better grappler, better conditioned, I’m a better athlete. The only thing that would pose a threat is if I took him lightly, but I’ve trained way harder than I have my whole life.”
Lentz, 29, was a longtime Minnesota resident, though he came to South Florida for training camps before fights at American Top Team’s gym in Coconut Creek. Last year, he decided to move his family to Florida full-time and get more serious about training.
“I’d come down here for 6, 7 weeks at a time, but I didn’t have a place of my own,” Lentz said. “I couldn’t cook food—I was in hotel rooms. It took two 32-hour trips in the car [to move], but now we’re here and we’re much happier.”
If you talk to Lentz long enough, you hear a lot about family – not only the wife and pets he brought with him to Florida, but the brothers-in-arms he has at American Top Team.
“We all care about each other,” Lentz said of his ATT mates. “I’ve been to other gyms, and there are friends, but not the family-like atmosphere.”
Of course, winning helps. American Top Team had four fighters at the Amway Center on April 19, and all four of them came away with victories. “We’ve gone on runs that are unprecedented. Five or six on a card sometimes, going undefeated. That doesn’t happen. It’s not just talk, it’s unprecedented.”
Perhaps Lentz’s best-known family story involves his father. In January 2012, with his father stricken with cancer and needing surgery, Lentz was asked to replace an injured fighter on short notice. He and Evan Dunham put on a show – a bloody two-round brawl that popped the Chicago crowd. Lentz suffered a cut under his eye bad enough that the doctors stopped it before the third round, but no matter—the bout earned Fight of the Night honors, with a $65,000 bonus, and Lentz knew immediately where the money would go. He paid for his father’s surgery.
“There’s nothing more important than family,” Nik Lentz said. “I don’t care if it was a million or 5 million—it’s just money. There was never any thought or decision to be made.”
Lentz’s father, now healthy, will be with him in Cincinnati this weekend, another motivator for a guy who likes to stay hyped during fight week.
“My fights are like gradual slopes upward to getting excited and in shape,” Lentz said. “I’m at my most nervous – Can I do this? What do I need to do? – at the beginning of camp. As I train hard, learn to pick the guy [his opponent] apart, and then fight week comes, that [confidence] skyrockets.
“I’m really looking forward to beating Manny on Saturday.”
Contact Jay Reddick at email@example.com. Saturday’s card can be seen on UFC’s online Fight Pass service (this includes the Lentz-Gamburyan fight) at 6:30 p.m., Fox Sports 2 prelims at 8 p.m., and the Fox Sports 1 main card at 10 p.m.
Lentz is a self-described nerd who said his usual routine during fight week is playing video games and watching anime. So naturally, we asked him about the recently announced “Star Wars” movie.
“’Star Trek’ is better, but I do like the ‘Star Wars’ franchise,” Lentz said. “I like the director they picked [J.J. Abrams] – they obviously saw that ‘Star Trek’ was a better show and stole the director. ‘The Phantom Menace’ was terrible, but if they can get this one right, the original had a lot going for it.”
On moving to Florida from Minnesota last August:
“First, I enjoy the weather. It was the coldest Minnesota winter in 50 years, and I’m glad I avoided that. In general, I love that there’s things to do, that we can drive to Orlando or the Keys. The fight game is very stressful, so it’s nice to get away and go on little mini-vacations.”