WellPlayed Interviews: Nik 'The Carny' Lentz

Written by PhilPhoenix
Aug 20 2011, 12:54 PM EDT

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Nik Lentz came from a background in wrestling and Pre-Med studies to become the highly skilled MMA fighter many know him to be today. Who would have guessed that on top of that he is not only an avid gamer, but a huge StarCraft fan as well? Although his love of video games is well known, the depth of his knowledge and passion for StarCraft is is news to many, which is why we decided to speak with him about it and get his thoughts on the game and the growth of eSports since SC2's release.

WellPlayed: Can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved in MMA fighting?

Nik Lentz: I was going to the University of Minnesota to get a degree in Pre-Med (Biology) and then I was going to go to medical school. I had a big falling out with the wrestling team, and for some reason or another, I really have no idea why, I decided to try an MMA fight. It went well, KO in the first, so I just kept on getting fights and doing well. I soon realized that I had a talent for fighting and decided that I could make a living doing something that I was starting to love.

WP: What are your future goals for your career?

NL: I will be UFC champ one day.

WP: How does someone who loves anime and video games end up fighting people for a living?

NL: No idea. Like I said, I just started out and it turned out that I was very talented at it. I was a good wrestler and had a background in sports. I guess we all have gifts and it just took me a few stabs to find out what mine was.

WP: How did you get into playing StarCraft II? Were you a Brood War player as well?

NL: I didn’t play Brood War. I wish I did, but growing up I didn’t have a computer. In fact I didn’t have any video game systems. We couldn’t afford those type of things. My mom had a friend that had a Nintendo, and I soon started spending almost every hour of the day going over to her house and beating all their games. That’s how I got into video games. Later, once I moved to Minnesota to live with my father I was able to get a computer and that’s where I fell in love with my first PC game, Unreal Tournament.

Nik Lentz

WP: Which race to you prefer to play, and why? Do you feel it best represents your personality?

NL: I play Protoss because they are the type of race that I always love in other types of games: the intelligent super race that has a true understanding of life and has fewer, more bad-ass units. The only problem is that the more I play StarCraft II, the more I realize that Protoss is not really the race I should have picked at all. I have thought about switching races, but then I would have to go all the way down from Masters to like Gold or something, which would make me want to cry a little. I have a very economic-heavy style of play and I feel Protoss really thrives off being aggressive and using the powerful units early before Terrans and Zergs can scale up to the same power. Protoss really thrives in small battles (even though the death ball will kill lesser players) and staying in it for the long haul is good, but it doesn’t really use the benefits of the strong early game that Protoss has.

WP: You mentioned that you are an avid follower of a number of StarCraft II events. Which is your favorite? Do you have a preference between Foreigner events and Korean events?

NL: I love GSL. It the best, hands down. I'm starting to like MLG more and more, and will be going to MLG Raleigh. The NASL has potential, but the Koreans are at a real disadvantage with the region lag. It would be nice if tournaments started implementing things like input lag programs, but we are kinda far away from that. Being an ex-Quake 3 player, I feel like I have so little control over my settings. I think StarCraft II could really benefit from giving more control over the game’s graphics and settings. It did wonders for Quake.

WP: Would you ever go to spectate a live event?

NL: I’m going to MLG Raleigh.

WP: Who is your favorite pro player?

NL: Nestea.....I know it’s kind of a lame and a completely un-hipster nerd pick, but he is just so freaking good it makes me sick and happy at the same time.

WP: Have you ever considered setting up a stream so people could watch you play?

NL: I have, but I want to be able to actually teach people something. I'm a low-level Masters player, and I feel like I'm not really talented enough for people to watch at this point. To add to that, my PvT is good, my PvP is good, but my PvZ is horrible. It’s just so bad and I don’t really feel like sharing it with the world.

WP: Is there anything you’d like to see added or removed in the game in future expansions?

NL: More settings that can be adjusted. I know that everyone would be paranoid that people would cheat, but I think you should always be able to change the settings in the config file. You bought the game; you should be able to play it with how ever shitty graphics you want.

WP: How does fighting and training balance with the rest of your life? Do you have a lot of free time or are you fully booked?

NL: I train around six to ten hours per day, and spend around one to two hours doing other business-related work. I would say that I have the same amount of free time as any other hard working business man.

The Carny

WP: Are there any other fighters you know who are gamers?

NL: There are a lot of pretend ones, but Call of Duty isn’t really a game. Neither is Halo or anything on the Xbox. I mean 60° field of view, auto aim, jumping across the screen and killing anyone with a knife as long as you hit X fast enough, that’s not an eSport or a challenging game. CoD and games like it are the checkers of the gaming world, and I don’t think anyone should be considered a gamer if that’s all they play.

WP: How do you feel about the explosive growth of eSports over the last year? Is it a bubble or a wave?

NL: I would like to think that it’s a wave. The only problem is that in order for this to keep going it needs the fan base and investors to stay. Lots of people don’t like to hear things like this, but if you see that companies are sponsoring eSports, buy their stuff! The only way to keep the professional scene alive is to allow the players to make enough money to have a good life. In order to do that, you need investors, and to have those, we have to buy their sponsors’ products. I'm not saying buy it just to buy it, but when you need a new processor, try looking to see who is sponsoring your favorite pros.

WP: Do you find that there are any similarities in your mindset when fighting and when playing StarCraft?

NL: Not really, they are two very different things.

WP: What do you think about eSports being recognized as a sport? I know MMA has had a long journey along the same road, do you see any comparisons?

NL: I don’t look at them as the same thing. I think that we need to be careful when we use the word "sport." The people who play StarCraft professionally are some of the hardest working people out there, but they are not athletes. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to compare them to an astrophysicist or something like that, but I just don’t see them as athletes. I love the word "eSport", but I don’t think that it’s good to label them as athletes. I watch StarCraft II tournies about a thousand times more often than I watch sports, and I would almost save NesTea’s trash, frame it, and hang it in my living room, but I don’t think of him as an athlete at all.

WP: Which is worse: getting cheesed with a 6 pool/cannon rush or getting an illegal knee?

NL: Illegal knee by far. Broken orbital, bruised spine, and a “No Contest” decision which cost me upwards of $30,000 because I get payed to win, not to have an NC decision. 6 pools and cannon rushes don’t really piss me off too much, but Marine/SCV all-ins make me want to kill the closest living thing I can get my hands on.

WP: Can you name a StarCraft II unit that best represents your fighting style?

NL: The Zealot. Fearless and powerful (upgraded and with Charge of course).

WP: Thanks so much for the interview! Any final thoughts or shoutouts you'd like to make?

NL: Check me out on Twitter (@niklentz) and always get my attention and say hi if you see me somewhere. I love meeting fans and talking about anything to do with StarCraft.