Roy NelsonVery few fighters have been able to compete at a high level after the age of 40 and those who have are typically accomplished athletes. However, 36-year old UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson is convinced he’ll be challenging the division’s best five years from now even if he’s not necessarily known for his athletic prowess.

While it might sound funny at first, Nelson’s self-assessment has substance considering his skill-set and reputation for toughness. The 17-7 Nelson has only been finished a single time in his career, taking out fifteen opponents along the way with a rare blend of punching power and effective grappling.

“I think with every fight I get better, while most fighters will get stagnant. A loss will make you better; sometimes a win will make you actually go backwards, depending on how you won. It all depends on how you look at things,” explained Nelson in an interview with the UFC’s website.

“I think I can do this until I’m probably about 41, 42 and be competitive,” Nelson added, saying the key to his success was not only learning from his performances but constantly seeking advice on how to improve.

Nelson’s next step towards the top comes tonight at the Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale where he’ll face Matt Mitrione in the main event. The match-up marks not only an opportunity for Nelson to live up to his own hype but to teach “Meathead” a lesson for calling him out shortly after original adversary Shane Carwin went down with an injury.

“(Mitrione) wasn’t even on my radar, but now he’s on my radar because he picked a fight. If you’re gonna ask for a fight, I’m more than willing to take the challenge,” said Nelson. “You never want to poke the bear. You might get bit.”