I caught up with UFC heavyweight prospect Brendan Schaub on MMA Nation on 106.7 The Fan yesterday to talk about his training, relevant issues in MMA and his upcoming bout with Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 121.
The biggest takeaway for me? Schaub’s incredibly eager to get put through fire as a means to showcase ability. As you’ll see in the interview, he’s tired of fighting “fat wrestlers” and believes he has the best cardio in the heavyweight division. While he’s not worried that all of his fights have ended in the first round, he knows there needs to be more meat on bones for him to take the next step in his career. And as Schaub ably points out, winning just a couple of fights impressively in the UFC heavyweight division means getting fast-tracked to harder fights at a clip quicker than contenders in other divisions.
You can read the entire transcript below or click here for those using mobile devices. Audio player below:
LT: Alright, with us on the line right now is one of the UFC’s top heavyweight prospects. He is on an absolute tear through the heavyweight division. He takes on Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 121 later this month, live on pay-per-view. The one and only Brendan Schaub joins the show. Brendan, how are you, sir?
BS: I’m doing great. How you doin’, man?
LT: Good, buddy. Brendan, let me ask you off the bat: did you go to WEC 51? It was in your backyard.
BS: You know, this is gonna sound bad, but I didn’t, man. I’m a huge WEC fan, I prefer to watch the smaller weights, but I had training, man. You know, I’m in training camp, so that was kinda the priority and I did not make it.
LT: Did you wind up seeing the fights after the fact?
BS: I did. I watched them about 10 o’clock at night and saw ‘em all, man. They were all really good fights, especially my boy “Cowboy” [Donald Cerrone]. He put on a show, man.
LT: He did look good. I wanna get to him in just a moment. I wanna ask you about the top of the card – Jose Aldo. He’s obviously the best featherweight on the planet. Maybe Marlon Sandro gives him a run, but he’s up there. In your mind, on the pound-for-pound list, where would you put him?
BS: I’d put him in the top five. You know, I think those top five guys, you can have arguments who’s number one. You can jumble those guys all around. You know, I think at his weight class and in the WEC… Man, I don’t think there’s really a test for him anymore, and I’m not interested in seeing him fight anyone else there at his weight division, so I’d like to see him put on maybe 10 pounds and come on up to the UFC, see how he fares up there with the big dogs.
LT: Listen, it’s all speculation. You’d give him a chance against Frankie Edgar?
BS: Yes, I do.
LT: Yeah? What about a big, imposing wrestler like Gray Maynard?
BS: See, that’s where it’d be interesting to see how he fares, with a guy like Gray Maynard who’s big and strong. If he comes in to make a strike, he might get taken down, but I think he’s well-rounded enough to where I think he’d fare pretty well with any of those guys up there.
LT: Let’s talk about your teammate, “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone. I have to tell you, there’s a lot of guys who are really talented, really solid aspects to their game, and their careers seem to turn the corner on some of their shortcomings. Is it me, or did “Cowboy” Cerrone, with this fight, turn a complete corner with his wrestling?
BS: Yup, I think you hit it on the nose, man. I think “Cowboy” added an aspect of his game, and that’s definitely wrestling. That’s been his focal point and I think that comes from Greg Jackson being the wizard that he is, just convincing “Cowboy” that it’s something he needs to do to get better. And he did that, and it definitely showed in this fight. You know, Jamie Varner’s no slouch when it comes to wrestling, man, and I think he caught him by surprise, taking him down, and they were great takedowns. I think that was definitely the difference in the fight.
LT: To the extent you’ve been exposed to his wrestling – because I know you bounce around; you have a particular BJJ coach, you’re at Grudge [Training Center], you’re at a lot of places – but to the extent that you’ve watched him train, has that been something he’s been working on for years? Did it take a while to sink in that that was something he needed to work on? How has his development gone?
BS: You know, I think guys – and a lot of guys fall victim to this – they get pretty far with the assets they have, and for “Cowboy” it was definitely kickboxing, striking, and he’d pull of some submissions with triangles and stuff like that. But you get to a point where, man, if you’re not good at all the things, it’s gonna catch up with you. It’s sink or swim, and for him, it was definitely a time he needed to swim, and he did that with his wrestling. I really think it helped him, going up to Tri-Star with Georges [St-Pierre]. Georges definitely focuses on wrestling and those guys have a great team up there, and they really helped him out. For “Cowboy,” he realized it was something he had to get better at, otherwise who knows where he’d end up.
LT: Again, if you’re just joining the show, UFC heavyweight, Season 10 member of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Brendan Schaub joins the show. Brendan, you mentioned Greg Jackson. Everyone knows about him. Here’s my problem with Greg Jackson interviews: he is so good at them, he tells you nothing, right? He’s very clever about being very polite, he’s very clever about giving just enough. But I’m trying to understand, if somebody is like me and they don’t really know, like you know, what makes a great MMA coach? What is that, and how does Greg Jackson bring that to life? Tell us really how that happens.
BS: You know, I think Greg is such a cerebral guy, he kinda can take a step back and, man, he just knows how to motivate a guy. I think that’s his biggest asset. Once Greg sits down with you and you go over a gameplan, you just buy into it. He just tells you all the right things, man. He knows what it’s gonna take to win. Before my last fight, you know, I deal with nerves like crazy, man. The week of the fight, I don’t know who doesn’t. I was nervous about facing Chris Tuchscherer and Greg comes up to me after a workout, and he just goes, “Hey, Brendan, what’s the worst thing that can happen to you on Saturday night?” I’m like, “Jeez, coach, I don’t know. I go in there and I lose, man. That’d be the worst thing.” He’s like, “Yeah, but how could you lose to this guy?” I’m like, “I don’t know, he holds me down, or he ends up getting a lucky shot and knocks me out?” And he goes, “No, not gonna happen. You’re too athletic for that. Your boxing’s too good for that. The worst thing that’s gonna happen is this guy’s gonna lay on you for 15 minutes in front of everyone. He’s not gonna do any damage, he’s just gonna lay on you. That’s his fighting style.” So, that helped with my nerves a little. He talked to me a little more about the gameplan, which, you know, you really buy into and I’m not as nervous. And then, you know, I’m feelin’ good, and I’m walking out the door and he goes, “But, hey, Brendan – after this one, you’re gonna get a monster. They’re not all gonna be like this.” And sure enough, he was right, man. He just says the right stuff at the right time, and I think he takes a different approach than other guys. A lot of coaches, if they’re a boxing coach or a jiu-jitsu coach, you know, boxing’s the key to everything, or jiu-jitsu’s the golden rule and you have to do it this way. With him, it’s not that way, man. I think that’s why Greg is so successful.
LT: If you watch a lot of MMA coaches – and I’m not sure if this is the wrong way, ‘cause if you see a lot of successful ones, this is the way they are, too – a lot of them are super intense, right?
LT: I mean, they got veins bulging out of their forehead, they’re trying to give clear, precise directions. And I was in the military, so I can kind of understand that. But Jackson, the only time I’ve ever seen him even raise his voice a little bit was when St-Pierre tore his groin a little bit against Dan Hardy, and he was sort of saying “get over it.” Have you ever seen Greg Jackson intense?
BS: I have not, man. That’s a great point. I really haven’t. I think some guys need that, but if you looked at the guys from our camp, none of us really need that. I would say [Shane] Carwin and myself are probably the most intense fighters when we’re getting to the ring. No one needs to tell us to get going or pump us up, and Greg’s not the guy to scream and shout, so some guys need that, but being part of Grudge and Jackson’s camp, you know, our guys are not like that. And I think that comes from training with Greg and Trevor [Wittman].
LT: UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub joins the show. Brendan, before we get to your fight at UFC 121, I want to talk to you about some research that came out. It describes UFC finishing rates by weight class, okay? At heavyweight, 60% of the fights end in TKO, and 23% end in decision, 15% in submission. At lightweight, 22% end in TKO, 31% end in submission. Now, it’s obvious that the heavyweights hit harder, they’re a little bit less technical, on average, than your lighter guys. But at 15% submission, to you, is that naturally where the numbers should be? Or is that indication that maybe, at the highest level, jiu-jitsu is really not as strong as it could be for heavyweights?
BS: I think it’s a combination of things. I definitely think there’s some guys who need to work on their jiu-jitsu, and I definitely think at heavyweight, guys get away with not being as well-rounded as the smaller weights. That’s why I personally prefer to watch the smaller weights. But at the same time, if you have a great wrestler or great jiu-jitsu guy who wants to get it to the ground, man, you get clipped with these four-ounce gloves as a heavyweight and you’ll never get to see their ground game. I think it’s tougher to get the heavyweights down, too, to expose them and to use the jiu-jitsu, so I think it’s a combination of things. But I definitely agree, I don’t think the level of jiu-jitsu and the ground game is as good in the heavyweight division as the smaller weights.
LT: Okay, you’re taking on Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 121, October 23rd at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. It’ll be on pay-per-view. You open the card, and it’s a stacked card: Brock Lesnar, UFC heavyweight champ, defending his title against Cain Velasquez; the arrival of Jake Shields against Martin Kampmann; Paulo Thiago, Diego Sanchez, Tito Ortiz is on the card. This is a monster card. Be honest: you do feel the pressure, right? You can lose big, but you can win big here, too, can’t you?
BS: Oh, yeah. I mean, I think everyone knows the pressure’s on, man, and that’s why I train so hard. The pressure makes me just train like crazy and I consider myself the hardest working man in the UFC. Shoot, man, a fight like this… The theme for this camp was just being relentless, and I’ve been working like crazy. I expect to win, and I expect to win in convincing fashion. And, you know, kicking off a card like that, this is my shot to make a big name for myself. It’s just such a great opportunity, man. It’s probably gonna go down as one of the biggest UFC’s ever and I don’t see why I can’t have the “Knockout of the Night” or “Submission of the Night” on that card.
LT: Let me ask you: are you pleased with the way in which your prospect status has been developed? You look at guys like Jon Jones, they’ve been getting not easy fights, but the kind of fights that make them better fighters in their young stages. Same with Ryan Bader. Do you consider yourself to be getting the kind of fights that are preparing you for a career at the highest level? When I say “highest,” I mean consistently fighting top challengers as a champion.
BS: Man, that is a great question. You know what, the first two guys, it’s kind of a double-edged sword. If you count my fight on “The Ultimate Fighter” with Roy Nelson, some people count that as my first UFC fight. Roy’s a tough, tough guy, and you know, I lost that one and I learned a little bit. That was the longest fight I’ve had and so I got a little bit of experience in that. And then these last two, man, I haven’t learned much. I’ve spent under two minutes total in those fights, and you walk away from them and I’m just so unsatisfied, man. I don’t go in there expecting to finish those guys really quick – it’s just happened. Right now, they got me on that Carwin track. You know, he beat two guys, knocked them out really quick, and then he got Gabe Gonzaga. So, am I ready for it? No doubt. I can compete with, I think, anyone in the top five in the world. As far as growing and becoming a better fighter, man, everyone has their plan. I can definitely beat Gabe. If I fight to my highest ability and he fights to his highest, I beat him every time. So, that’s the plan. You know, the 205 division, for example with Jon Jones, there’s enough guys to build him up. They have tons of guys at certain levels. At heavyweight, man, who are they gonna give me? Another fat guy? I’m sick of fighting these fat wrestlers, man. I gotta be honest with you. I’m ready for a challenge and I think this is the right step. I’m sure as heck not gonna argue with it or put up a fight. It’s such a great opportunity. So, I see what you’re saying, man, but at the heavyweight division it’s kinda sink-or-swim.
LT: It’s not a knock on your record. Your record is pretty great, okay? All your wins by way of first-round TKO, which obviously means you’ve got a lot of talent. Does it ever concern you – because you just kind of mentioned it – you kind of blew trough these last two guys because you’re good, but you wanna see how you stack up against a guy who can push you. Are you worried at all about the fact that you haven’t had a fight go to the second round in your pro career?
BS: Not in the least bit, man. I’m excited to show it. I hope Gabe and I just get after it, man. I’d love to show my cardio. People talk about Cain Velasquez’ cardio all the time, and other guys in the heavyweight division – I think it’s my biggest asset. I think Cain has great cardio, but I think my cardio is a little different because I’m explosive in the second and third rounds. You guys haven’t seen it, and what better time to show it than on this giant UFC card coming up October 23rd?
LT: Now, you’re facing a guy that one of your teammates has already fought. You’re facing Gabe Gonzaga and your teammate Shane Carwin fought him and beat him. Obviously, Shane can tell you what it’s like to lock up with him, maybe how he balances, how he twists and turns a little bit, but really, Shane iced him within four minutes in the first round, so he doesn’t have a lot of experience either, right?
LT: So how do you get help from a guy who won so dominantly?
BS: Man, he really can’t say much. You know, Shane went in there and was so pumped up and excited, came straight at Gonzaga and he ate a couple right hands, ended up getting a little wobbled and taken down, which shows you what kind of fighter Gonzaga is. It’s pretty tough to take Carwin down. And then Carwin got up and ended the fight pretty quick with a right hand. I don’t take much from it, man. You know, Shane and I are completely different fighters. His game and my game aren’t even close. He’s my best friend and a great training partner, but when it comes to our fighting style, especially for this fight, there’s not much. Shane always tells me, “Man, you can beat anyone in the world.” That’s what he always tells me when I tell him about match-ups. So, as far as getting hints and advice for this fight, he doesn’t say much to me, man, ‘cause like you said, it was a quick fight and he just ended it in the first round.
LT: Alright, so how do you beat Gabe Gonzaga? Here is a guy who has a record that is inconsistent, which is always so dangerous, because when he performs up to his level, boy, he is quite a talent. And when he doesn’t, he kinda folds. How do you put him on the bad end of his inconsistency?
BS: Like you said, he folds, man. You make it a fight, the guy folds, and I was born with a fighter’s heart. There’s no quit in me. You’re gonna have to knock me out or choke me unconscious. I’m gonna make it a fight, man. I’m gonna get in his face and I’m just gonna go in there and scrap, man. I’m excited to show my abilities, ‘cause I don’t think it’s gonna be a quick one. I never do, and if it is, great, but I’m hoping to put on a show. With Gonzaga, like I said, I think if I bring my A-game and he brings his A-game, my A-game beats him every time, so that’s the plan.
LT: Can you give us a prediction for the main event? Brock Lesnar, UFC heavyweight champion, taking on quite a challenge in Cain Velasquez – who do you like there?
BS: Oh, man!
LT: You gotta pick somebody. You can’t waffle.
BS: No, I’m with you, man. I won’t leave you hanging. You know, I hope Brock goes undefeated until Carwin or I get a shot at him. You know, since he beat Shane, you don’t wanna see him lose until one of us get a hold of him. However, I think Cain will beat him in either a late TKO in the third or fourth round, or he’s gonna beat him in a decision. He’s just gonna outpoint him.
LT: Let me ask you: what did Shane say about Brock after the fight? Was there anything noteworthy? Obviously, he’s a tough guy. Shane Carwin brought the thunder that first round, but credit to Brock, my god, that guy hung around. Did Shane have any impression of Brock after the fight that maybe caught your attention in what he said?
BS: You know what, the one thing I took away from that fight, ‘cause, you know, I can’t stand their camp and what they stand for, man. You know, with Tuchscherer, [Jon] Madsen, him, their whole camp – not a fan. And, you know, there’s a genuine hatred towards them, from me towards them before my fight and before Shane’s fight. And after the fight, you know, speaking to their coaches, shaking their coaches’ hands, and Brock came up to Shane and was just like, “Man, you’re a hell of a fighter and you really put it on me. I got nothing but respect for you.” And Shane said he was a good guy after the fight, so it kind of changed my perspective on Brock Lesnar. Although, you gotta have a bad guy. Everyone hates the bad guy and he kinda plays that role, but at the end of the day, man, you know, he’s just another fighter like the rest of us. So, I kinda gained a little more respect for him after that.
LT: I’m just curious – your source of discontent with their camp, is it just because they’re all individualistic? What is it?
LT: Is it a personal thing?
BS: Uh, maybe a little. You know, I just… You know, what do they do, man? It’s all meatheads, right? So, you got all stud wrestlers. You know what they are is a modern-day Hammer House. You know what I’m saying? Like, they get together, it’s all these big dinosaurs pushing and wrestling each other around, and heaven forbid they should bring in a striker or bring in a guy to teach them to evolve their game. You know, they’re really not evolving. You can say Brock’s evolved with his jiu-jitsu because he submitted Carwin with a head-and-arm choke. It’s not like he armbarred the guy or did an ankle lock or something. They’re just not evolving, man, and I think the sport of mixed martial arts is more like guys like Georges St-Pierre, guys like Nate Marquardt or myself, who are well-rounded, they can do everything. When I’m in camp, I’m constantly training, trying to improve my game and get better at all aspects. Can’t say the same for those guys. You know, they go in there and they wrestle. And, you know, he’s doing well with it, but I think the sport needs to continue to grow, and I don’t think they help the sport grow.
LT: Brendan, if folks wanna hear more from you, how can they follow you on Twitter?
BS: It’s just “@BrendanSchaub.”
LT: Alright, Brendan Schaub takes on Gabe Gonzaga in a massive fight on the biggest card of the fall, UFC 121, October 23 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, live on pay-per-view. Best of luck to you, Brendan Schaub. Thanks for being on MMA Nation. I appreciate it.
BS: Thanks for having me on, man. I appreciate it, Luke.
LT: Take care, buddy.
BS: Take care.
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