The last time UFC fans saw former UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion Shane Carwin he had stepped in on short notice as a replacement for Brock Lesnar against current UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos at UFC 131 last June. The winner would then go on to face heavyweight kingpin Cain Velasquez for a shot at UFC gold.
Unfortunately for Carwin the combination of Dos Santos speed and power and his lingering injuries that had been bothering him for a very long time sent him home with a unanimous decision loss. Now here we are 14 months and one more surgery later and Carwin is preparing for a career rebirth of sorts. First things first, he has to get back into fighting shape and he is doing so at his own pace.
“I feel like I am getting back to where I was before the injuries,” Carwin told BJPenn.Com. “If I sound a little tired it’s because I had my wisdom teeth pulled yesterday. Everything is looking better every day and I’m excited about getting back into the cage and getting after it. I’m not training at full strength yet, but we are picking up the pace and increasing the intensity every day. I don’t want to jump back in too fast and reinjure myself.”
When Carwin was healthy enough to train it was always with a specific opponent in mind. He never had any significant time to really hone his skills, but lately he has been able to focus on becoming an all-around better fighter.
“It’s been nice to get in the gym and just be able to improve myself as a fighter,” admitted Carwin. “Usually when I’m in the gym we are game planning for a scheduled fight, but these past few weeks I have been focusing on myself. I can work on my conditioning and the technical aspect of my game.”
After the Dos Santos fight Carwin knew it was time to correct what was wrong with him even if that meant he’d be on the sidelines for a long period of time. It didn’t make sense for him to continue competing when he wasn’t 100%.
“This last surgery I had was in my mid-back,” Carwin said. “Before that surgery I had an operation on my neck. I’ve been involved in sports since I was six and I’m sure fighting has contributed to those injuries, it was just a lot of wear and tear on my body. I had a bulging and a ruptured disk that was compressing my spinal cord. The doctor basically went in there and cleaned it up and drilled out some of my back bone to give my spinal cord some room. It actually allowed some spinal fluid around it again as it had been compressed away from it.”
Although he was unable to fight or train Carwin still had plenty of things keeping him busy. As always he has held an everyday, fulltime job on top of being a father and a husband, something that means more to him than anything else in this world.
“I am still working full time as an engineer for the water authority and I got some more time to hang around with my family,” said the Greeley, CO native. “Everyone has different views on how they approach life. In mine my family comes first and the job with the water authority gives me a level of security that allows me to compete at a more comfortable level.”
Many fans were surprised when the UFC announced that Carwin would be coaching the next season of The Ultimate Fighter opposite Roy “Big Country Nelson.” He’s always been quiet and reserved and shied away from the spotlight while Nelson loves the camera and the attention that comes with his boisterous personality.
“The UFC had narrowed it down to a couple of different match-ups,” offered the 1999 NCAA Division II wrestling champion. “They keep it really quiet to be honest with you because of social media. They are always afraid the news leaking out. I only found out that it was me & Roy the day before it was announced in the USA Today. It gives me an opportunity to teach a group of young fighters the professionalism of the sport and I can give them ideas to take back home and help them develop as a fighter.”
Coming along to Las Vegas with Carwin is a tremendously talented and well respected team including one of his best friends who recently returned to the sport to capture the Strikeforce welterweight Championship.
“I am bringing Trevor Wittman along as he has been with me since the very beginning,” Carwin said. “Loren Landow who has worked with the Broncos and is one of the best S & C coaches in the world, Leister Bowling will be our wrestling coach and Nate Marquardt will also be with us. He’s going to bring a lot of different things to the table for our fighters. He’s great at everything; he’s the one who is responsible for me getting to where I’m at. I wouldn’t be the fighter I am without Nate.”
Nelson and Carwin were originally scheduled to fight one another back in January of 2011 at UFC 125, but he was still recovering from the neck surgery he had in November of 2010. The two heavyweights certainly have no love lost for one another and that should lead to an interesting sixteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter.
“I’m sure he will probably test my nerves,” Carwin joked. “I’m sure it will be exciting and I know we don’t like one another so I’m sure it will make for some good television. I don’t know the guy and I’ve never hung around him. To be honest with you I never wanted to hang around him! He’s a talented fighter and if he would take things more serious he could take it to another level. He’s a dangerous guy with some power and he’s great on the ground. All I have fought is the best and so has he and I’m looking forward to getting in there with him.”
The UFC purchased Strikeforce three months before Carwin’s last fight and has since disbanded their talent laden heavyweight division and brought most of the talent over to the Octagon. Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett each have one last fight before they are eventually moved over to the UFC and that will add two more fighters to an already deep division.
“Every top heavyweight is in the UFC now and that’s what everyone wanted,” assessed Carwin. “This is one of the only divisions in the world where all the top fighters are concentrated in one organization. We’re all here and you get to find out who the best is and where you belong. My last fight was a disappointment and I definitely am looking to get that one back, but I know I have to work my way back up. The good thing is there are enough great fighters to fight and I couldn’t be happier about it.”
Speaking about Cormier’s last fight inside the Strikeforce cage, Carwin is very familiar with the man who will be crossing over from the UFC to face Cormier. Carwin defeated Frank Mir by first round knockout for the interim title at UFC 111 in March of 2010.
“Daniel is the real deal, he won the Strikeforce tournament for a reason,” said Carwin. “I would assume after his fight with Frank he’ll be coming over to the UFC along with Josh Barnett. Mir has been around longer than any other UFC heavyweight and will give Cormier a tough test and it will make for an exciting fight. I’m not surprised that Frank took the fight; he wants to fight the best. He’s a great guy and a much different person than the man you see on TV.”
He may only have 14 career fights to his credit, but Carwin is at an age when most fighters continue to break down physically. Maybe the time off and the surgeries will allow him to continue fighting longer than most people his age, who knows, time will only tell. Regardless he will always have his job and other causes that he holds near and dear to his heart.
“There is no timeframe, that’s something my wife and I talk about after every fight,” said the 37-year-old Carwin. “We look at where we see this going and if we want to continue or not. It’ll be something where we sit down and talk about it after the fight with Roy is over. When I’m not competing I keep myself busy by helping out kids in need and with the military. That is something I plan on doing long after my fighting days are done.”Tags: Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez, daniel cormier, frank mir, Junior Dos Santos, Nate Marquardt, Roy Nelson, SHANE CARWIN, The Ultimate Fighter