“I’m still an average guy. I’ve worked hard since I was fifteen years old. I worked construction for fifteen years to help myself get through college and life,” Carwin says. “I’ve been where these fans are, and I still am. So nothing has changed in that way, and nothing will ever change. I looked over at my wife the other day and said ‘do you realize you’re married to one of the baddest men on the planet?’ She wasn’t impressed.”
Carwin’s wife Lani may not have been impressed by his posturing, but his brutal string of knockouts have earned him a legion of fans, many of whom have been extremely vocal in their desire to see Carwin knock Brock Lesnar off his lofty pedestal. Despite several first-round knockouts, Carwin was a virtual unknown, but his destruction of Frank Mir in March loudly announced his presence to the MMA community and turned him, almost overnight, into a budding superstar.
“I’m overwhelmed by it. It’s still crazy to me that people want my autograph,” he says. “I’m able to do what I love. I’m very fortunate and God has blessed me. Football didn’t work out for me, but there’s a reason for that and God has a plan for us all.”
Carwin, who meets Lesnar for the UFC heavyweight championship on Saturday night at UFC 116, is an aberration in the world of mixed martial arts. Many fighters enjoy plenty of leisure time when they aren’t training, playing video games or taking extended vacations. Carwin uses his time to make a contribution to society, holding down a job as an engineer in his hometown of Greeley, Colorado. It keeps him grounded and it serves as a connection point to the fans who pay hard-earned money to see him fight. He’s an everyman, someone the fans can relate to, and he spends copious amounts of time interacting directly with fans on his official website and via his Twitter account.
His team at Grudge Training Center is another connection to the real world, he says. “We’ve created a team. It’s a family there in Colorado. If you look around, guys don’t come there and then leave. They come and they stay. And there’s a reason for that,” he says. “It’s because we all depend on each other. We’re there to support each other. I had that in college with my wrestling teams and my football teams, and any time we were tight like that, we had very successful teams.”
Carwin’s success on Saturday night likely hinges on his ability to land a power shot to Lesnar’s chin. While Lesnar’s wrestling pedigree and raw strength gives him an advantage on the ground, Carwin’s standup game is far more polished and technical, and he says he hopes to put that boxing game to good use.
“I hope to put him on his back early in the fight, to get that knockout. If you put any of the top ten heavyweights against each other, I think anything can happen. That’s what people love about the sport,” Carwin says. “There’s very little room for error. Anything can happen. And going in, I understand that and I recognize it. I think that allows me to fight more freely.”