Changes in training camp have TUF 10 finalist poised to face Nogueira
“You just can’t go where it’s convenient or easy for you. For me to become a world champion, I’ve got to go where I can get better, and if I’ve got to hurt a few feelings along the way, that’s what has to happen. That’s the realization I came to in this camp.
“The only guy that goes into that Octagon August 27 is me, not anyone who I hurt their feelings or I stayed behind and I’m not a better fighter for it. That’s what I came to realize and its paid off I think.”
Brendan Schaub is a team guy, a selfless guy by nature. When most fighters take time to themselves following a fight — to heal up, relax, get fat, whatever — the 28-year-old would put himself second. Instead of riding the couch, he’d head back to Denver, step through the doors at the Grudge Training Center and hit the cage or the mats to help his teammates prepare.
“I’m that guy that,” admitted Schaub, a tinge of frustration evident in his words. “Instead of going on vacation, I come back to the gym to help [Shane Carwin] out, help Nate Marquardt or Eliot Marshall. I’m a guy who always misses out on things because I’m always trying to help everyone else.”
It’s not that his teammates haven’t reciprocated over the two years since Schaub burst onto the scene by advancing to the finals of Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter – they have, and he’s appreciative — but the timing didn’t sync up this time around. Between injuries, incidents, and everyday life, Schaub thought something was missing at home in Denver, so he decided to pack his bags and hit the road.
“You know what, it’s been weird this camp. Shane’s been out. I’ve worked with him a little bit, but the injuries he sustained in the dos Santos fight and some other stuff he’s been dealing with — and he has a job — so he hasn’t been in a ton. Nate doesn’t fight until later in the year, so I’ve worked with him a little bit, but there just weren’t a lot of guys there.”
“For me, my dad and my agent always tell me, ‘You’ve got to be selfish.’ This was all about being selfish,” Schaub explained, speaking to Heavy MMA earlier in the month. “I was like, ‘I’ve gotta get better,’ so I told coach Trevor Wittman that I was going to start working with some other striking coaches. They just want the best for me, and they agreed, so that’s what I started to do, and I’ve become a better fighter for it.”
Schaub became a training transient, working around the country, with stops in New York, Albuequerque and Miami, taking in whatever information was being offered wherever he set down his bags.
“One of my biggest assets is that I’m just open-minded,” Schaub suggested. “All my coaches will tell you this — I’m the most coachable guy they have. I’m not a guy who thinks one way is the right way; I’m open to anything. I’ve done a ton of traveling over the past year just to get better as a fighter, get out of my comfort zone.
“I went down to Albuquerque, Miami, New York, just to train with some of the best out there. When I’m down there, I immerse myself in whatever they’re going to do. Even if I don’t agree with it, I try it out because obviously they’re doing something right with it. I take what works and put it into my own toolbox. I think I have a pretty good game plan on what it takes to be successful in the UFC.”
Throughout his time on The Ultimate Fighter and in his four subsequent fights since losing to Roy Nelson, Schaub has put his tools on full display, and the results have been impressive.
He needed under two minutes of time in the cage to dispatch Chase Gormley and Chris Tuscherer in his first two bouts post-TUF, then stepped up and put on a heavyweight boxing clinic against former title contender Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 121. Then came his toughest test to date, a meeting with Mirko Crop Cop at UFC 128, an opponent Schaub had asked the UFC to match him up against.
As a belated birthday to himself, the former NFL hopeful handed Crop Cop what many believed would be his final loss in the UFC, dropping the former Pride standout with 76 seconds remaining the final round of the three round affair. The final verdict would have been any different had Schaub not put the Croatian away — he had won the opening two rounds — but the finish netted him an additional $70,000 for Knockout of the Night. After the victory, Schaub set his sights on his next target, another former Pride standout, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
There were mixed reactions to Schaub’s asking to be paired with the 35-year-old legend.
Nogueira hasn’t been in the cage since losing to Cain Velasquez at UFC 110. In the 18 months he’s been out of the cage, “Minotauro” has undergone surgery on both his knees, as well as his hip. Critics questioned whether Schaub was simply calling out fading stars on the downside of their careers, attempting to build his name off their backs.
“I didn’t see too many people begging to fight Nogueira in Brazil; it’s a tough task,” Schaub answered quickly when asked about motive for calling out another iconic heavyweight. “What people don’t realize is I’m getting these — this will be my second legend in a row, third frickin’ monster in a row — and I’m getting these guys with their backs against the wall. There couldn’t be a worse time to fight them. Especially fighting Nogueira in Brazil — it’s a tough task. I think it’s as close as you can get to the pressure of a title fight with it being non-title.”
He also added that the opportunity to fight in Brazil was something he couldn’t pass up.
“This fight and UFC Rio, I think it’s one for the history books and I wanted to be a part of that. To fight a guy like Nogueira in his home country is just an epic fight. This is definitely the biggest fight of my career; the spotlight is definitely on me a little more this time. I thought it was the next step in my career, and it’s a huge one at that. I just wanted to be a part of [this event], and I was fortunate enough that Nogueira accepted the fight.”
As for what happens after his trip to Brazil, Schaub doesn’t have a “who” in mind; instead, he’s more what focused on a “what,” a shiny, gold what that weighs about twelve pounds.
“The only reason I do this is to hold the title. I definitely don’t do this just to be a guy in the UFC. I think the thing that stuck with me the most about coming off The Ultimate Fighter, Dana White on the first day said, `We’re not looking for just anyone in here; anyone can be on The Ultimate Fighter. I’m looking for world champions.’ I took that to heart, and it’s something that I’ll never forget. I think beating guys like Nogueira, Cro Cop, Gonzaga and whatever monster’s next — whether it’s for the title or the #1 contender spot — that’s always the goal: to be a world champion.
“If you look at the layout of the heavyweight division, a (win) puts me up there. I think Frank Mir is right up there; he could be next. With the layout of the division, I could be next in line. Five straight wins and if I can go in there and get an impressive knockout over Nogueira, I think I have a case to be the next in line. For me, a win of this magnitude just throws me right in the mix.”
Climbing to the top of the list of contenders is what the last five months have been about. It’s why he shuttled around the country working with Greg Jackson, Renzo Gracie, and Mark Henry, the boxing coach of UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, not the WWE superstar and former power lifter. Becoming the UFC heavyweight champion is why he left the ease and comfort of Denver for the heat and humidity of working with Rashad Evans and the team at Imperial Athletics in Florida.
After five months of training, five months of traveling, and five months of being selfish, Schaub is ready for it to all come together in the cage on Saturday night in his opponent’s backyard.
“I think people will see all the hard work and this big melting pot of some of the greatest coaches and training partners put together for a camp come together. I’ve never felt better; I know it’s cliche and a lot of guys say it, but I’ve never said it before — I don’t think. This is the best version of me. I’ve done everything in my power to win this fight. I’ve got to go out and prove it come August 27.
“The amount of work that I put in for this fight and what it means to me, I can’t even describe it in words. I’ve just got to get out there and do my thing. Obviously, it’s going to be hostile as heck, but I feed off that; the more pressure there is, the better I do. I’m a better fighter when the lights are on and the bullets are real.”