Shane Carwin has just under a month before he’ll go to Las Vegas to try and bring the UFC heavyweight championship back to Colorado.
It’s a monumental fight, not only for the relatively unknown Carwin, but also for the financial prospects of the UFC. UFC 106 will take place on Nov. 21 at the Mandalay Bay, and it’s not stretch to say that it’s one of the “tentpole” cards that the company is counting on to draw huge revenues and close out the year in style.
Most of those expectations can be placed directly on the behemoth shoulders of Carwin’s opponent. Brock Lesnar, the current UFC heavyweight champion, is one of the most polarizing figures in the sport. He’s also its biggest featured attraction. Lesnar’s rematch with Frank Mir at UFC 100 this summer was the biggest card in the history of the sport, pulling in just under 1.75 million pay per view buyers who wanted to see if Lesnar could exact revenge on Frank Mir, the only man to beat him in his young career as a mixed martial artist, or if Mir would pull another rabbit out of the hat and surprise the heavily favored Lesnar yet again.
Lesnar definitely exacted revenge. Using a combination of size, strength and enough functional jiu-jitsu technique to get by, Lesnar trapped Mir’s arms behind his head and punched him in the face with enough force to render Mir nearly unconscious. It was a brutal finish and a scary reminder that, while Lesnar’s attitude may turn off fans of traditional mixed martial arts, they’re going to have to deal with him for a long, long time.
Fighters typically shake hands in a show of respect after a loss. Lesnar, however, wasn’t playing the typical game. He ran up to Mir, pointed directly in his bloody face, and screamed obscenities. He then cut one of the most infamous interviews in MMA history, the gist of which cannot be done justice by text.
One fan of the sport who took serious issue with Lesnar’s comments was Shane Carwin. The former division 2 national champion took to the web and posted comments deriding Lesnar’s actions after the fight.
“I had some friends in the area who watched that show, and they were watching the UFC for the first time,” said Carwin. “And they were just appalled by what he had done. Especially what he did with Frank Mir, getting in his face after the victory? That’s just disrespectful. You’re supposed to have the utmost respect for anybody that goes in there to compete against you. Those are the first words you see when you walk into any dojo.”
Carwin was scheduled to face fellow prospect Cain Velasquez at UFC 104. But when Lesnar returned earlier than expected from a surgery and asked the UFC to give him an opponent before the year of the year, the UFC decided to pull Carwin from UFC 104 and give him the shot of a lifetime: a chance at the heavyweight championship.
UFC sources confirm that Carwin’s post-UFC 100 comments were the deciding factor in giving him the title shot.
“He talked his way into the title shot,” said one source.
Lesnar ignored Carwin’s comments. In fact, it’s safe to say Lesnar knew nothing of them, considering that he doesn’t own a computer, lives in seclusion in the woods and only shares one limited-minutes cell phone with his wife. Once the match was made, however, Lesnar jumped directly into fight-promoting mode, scoffing at the idea of Carwin as a serious competitor and criticizing his credentials as a NCAA Division 2 national champion.
“I guess that type of thing should be expected from Brock,” said Carwin. “But Brock knows, and I know he knows, that there are plenty of All-American wrestlers in Division 2 who could easily be All-Americans in Division 1. In fact, the top guy in the United States right now, who just took third place at the world championships, is a Division 2 wrestler. Brock was a junior college champion before he made the jump to division 1, and division 2 is better than juco. So we can play that game if he wants.”
Carwin contends that collegiate wrestling experience is a great thing to have on your resume. He’s also quick to point to several fighters who have successfully utilized wrestling despite having zero college experience.
“Where did Georges St. Pierre go to get his wrestling degree? Where did Nate Marquart wrestle? Neither of those guys wrestled in college, but I’ve seen Nate Marquardt go into a college wrestling room and hang with some of the best college wrestlers in the country. And everyone can see what Georges St. Pierre has been able to do. He’s probably the best functional wrestler in the sport.”
Carwin is one of the best heavyweight wrestlers in the sport, but he’s rarely shown it. None of his fights have gone past the first round, and all but one have ended with Carwin’s opponents staring up at the lights. He’s supremely confident that he’ll defeat Lesnar.
And when he does, he already knows who he’d like to defend his title against.
“It will be Cain Velasquez. I really wanted that fight, and Cain deserves a title shot,” said Carwin. “Cain deserves it, and a lot of people want to see it. I want to see it. So it would be Cain.”
Regardless of the outcome of the championship fight, Shane Carwin says he feels blessed to compete in mixed martial arts and to be surrounded by people that keep him grounded.
“I love being able to do what I do. I was very fortunate to grow up with a mother who raised three boys and allowed us to participate in sports, to find out who we really were,” said Carwin. “There are still times when I drive by a football field, and I’ll smell the grass, and I’ll get a little emotional. I’m just very blessed to be able to do what I do, to compete and be surrounded by the amazing people that support me. If I ever lose that passion for this sport, I will quit. But that’s not happening any time soon.”