While Schaub may have some work to do in garnering fan support for a shot at the title, when once actually inventories where the top contenders are in the UFC heavyweight division are, Schaub isn't far away. At the time of this writing, only Frank Mir and a potentially rejuvenated Brock Lesnar are ahead on the list.
Schaub is aware he might have legwork to do in building fan support for any potential opportunity to contest for a title. He's had some good wins in the UFC, but lacks that marquee performance that situates him in top contendership position. But that's precisely why Schaub seeks not only a fight with the legendary Nogueira, but in Brazil. What Schaub seeks more than anything? Clarity. There should be no questions, no debate, no issue. A win over a ranked and highly-regarded opponent like Nogueira - particularly on his home territory - is just the sort of accomplishment that can provide Schaub the recognition and momentum he needs.
MMA Nation recently spoke with Schaub about what is likely to be the toughest and incontestably the most important fight of his career. Schaub asserts a win over Nogueira should not only put him in line for a title shot, but in this interview he talks his development relative to his peers from season 10 of 'The Ultimate Fighter', the jiu-jitsu training from Amal Easton, Yushin Okami's chances against Anderson Silva and much more.
Full audio and transcription below:
Luke Thomas: I'm joined now by Brendan Schaub. He takes on Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 134 later this month in August. Brendan, how are you, sir?
Brendan Schaub: I'm doing great, man. Training hard.
Luke Thomas: Brendan, before we get to your fight and what's next for you, could you give us an update on the status of Shane Carwin. How is his health? Is he training again? Where is he today?
Brendan Schaub: You know what? He took some time off and he's recovered. He's actually been there helping me out at the tail end of my camp and as far as I know he's back to normal and he was beating up on me just the other day so he's doing well.
Luke Thomas: Were you surprised with how that fight went with Junior dos Santos that particularly in the wrestling and the jab of dos Santos seemed to be more effective than most folks considered. Were you surprised by that at all?
Brendan Schaub: You know, for Shane, it was a rough camp for him, as far as injuries go. The biggest issue we had was just getting him healthy to the fight. There are some things Junior and I do very similarly as far as boxing goes so the jab was an issue in camp and it was an issue in the fight. We tried to work around it and that's the name of the game. Things didn't go his way, but you know Shane will be back. He's one of the best heavyweights in the world so we're going to het him healthy, go back to the drawing board and he's going to be doing some damage pretty soon here.
Luke Thomas: I saw some pictures of you in Brazil, and I think it was part of the media tour you had to promote the fight, but what was interesting was that you didn't seem to be having a bad time at all, so I guess what I'm asking is, you're not interested, per se, in national rivalry. I know Brazil isn't your home, but you seem kind of at home in Brazil. Am I reading that correctly?
Brendan Schaub: No, you hit that right on the nose. I'm definitely kind of going the ‘anti-Chael Sonnen' route. I embrace Brazil and to me it's always been a dream of mine to compete there and I'm definitely taking full advantage of this opportunity. I still expect to get booed, but I think the Brazilian culture and the people respect what I do and they're just looking for a good fight come August 27 and that's what they're going to get. I've been nothing but respectful of Nogueira. I think that's the only way to go. Especially when you're dealing with these legends. This is my second big legend in a row so it's something I'm getting used to.
Luke Thomas: I read an interview with one of your trainers, Trevor Wittman, and he said you were offered this fight at UFC 135, which of course takes place in Colorado, and you declined. I'm sort of wondering, why would you decline a fight at home when it's a huge part of the main card against a guy who is highly revered? What is the logic there?
Brendan Schaub: I don't think I would get as much respect doing it in my home town. I fought there before. My first real UFC fight was there on UFC: Versus in Denver so I've kind of been there, done that. I'd love to perform in front of my home crowd, UFC 134 in Rio is one for the record books. The only way that I'm going to get the notoriety these legends have is by beating these guys on the biggest stage and there's no bigger stage than UFC: Rio. That's why I asked for it and that's why it's such a big deal to me, rather than fight in Denver.
Luke Thomas: It's funny, you said that in order to maximize the amount of respect you could get with the potential victory over Nogueira, you want to fight on his home turf. Do you feel in some ways you're lacking in respect? That you're not getting the respect you deserve?
Brendan Schaub: No, not at all. Not the least bit. I just think it's a tougher route to go. You know, I never take the easy way out and I just think what a huge honor and stage for me to say ‘yeah, that guy beat up Antônio Nogueira in Brazil in the UFC since ‘98.' For me, it sets a huge international stage and this is something, when I do have kids, that I'll be able to tell them about. This is the biggest night of my life.
Luke Thomas: Certainly, there's a contingent of hardcore fans that love Cro Cop, but if I'm reading the tea leaves correctly there's a crop of them that love Nogueira even more. Do you think you might be poking the bear, so to speak? Do you think there's a contingent of fans that are going to be mad at you should you beat Nogueira? It's a strange question, but they exist, don't they?
Brendan Schaub: For sure. But you know what? They do. I hate to say it, but before I was a professional fighter I was one of those guys. I'm a huge PRIDE fan and Cro Cop and Nogueira were my guys. It just so happens I'm fighting them now. It's kind of the ‘Tito Ortiz aspect' where people either love you or hate you and when you're fighting PRIDE legends, you know these guys have huge followings, you know I got booed in New Jersey. A lot of place I went out to eat or before the fight when I walked out I got booed in America so these guys have earned that respect. It's just something that comes with the territory. I realize it. I'm a Cro Cop fan to the fullest, as well as Nogueira, so I get it. I don't take it personally. I definitely expect that sort of stuff to happen.
Brendan Schaub: That's a tough matchup. I think both guys' back are against the ropes so they're both going to come out at their best. That's a tough one to call. I really can't give you a prediction on that.
Luke Thomas: If you met someone who knew a lot about MMA, but for whatever reason didn't know a lot about you, and you have to explain your career. How would you explain your career path and your achievements and some of your failures, too? How would you characterize your career up to this point? What would you say about it? When you go to bed at night, how do you feel about it?
Brendan Schaub: I feel great. I worked my tail off and I expect to be where I'm at. I expect to be on the main card. I expect to be the big show. So for me when the call me and say ‘hey, you're fighting Gabriel Gonzaga.You're fighting Mirko Cro Cop or Nogueira in Brazil.' I'm excited. It's everything I dreamt of, but at the same time I expect it. I'm really confident in what I do and I expect to be here. I expect to be the world title holder and for me, it's just stuff I expect. I go to bed and it's great I got the Nogueira fight. It's great I'm on my first UFC poster. It's not enough for me. For me, it's just constantly staying hungry.
Luke Thomas: I didn't realize that. This is your first UFC poster?
Brendan Schaub: Yeah, when I made it to The Ultimate Fighter Finale they had Kimbo Slice on the poster and Roy and I were not on it, so this is my first poster. Heck of a debut on a UFC poster. I'm pumped.
Luke Thomas: Did you crack a smile when you saw it for the first time?
Brendan Schaub: Yes, I had no idea. The card is freaking stacked and obviously Nogueira's a huge deal and I'm in Brazil with my coach and he goes ‘holy cow, look at that man.' It was right before the press conference and I had a huge smile on my face, took about 30 pictures of it.
Luke Thomas: In beating anybody, Nogueira, or Fedor, anyone, obviously all dimensions of the game are important, but I think to this fight distance is going to be huge. What I mean is, If you can really establish striking range, you're more athletic than Nogueira, he's a little shopworn at this part of his career and he doesn't really have a great shot from outside, he has to get kind of like a body lock or underneath your legs for a takedown. So am I diagnosing this correctly? Is distance really critical to beating Nogueira?
Brendan Schaub: I think so. It's definitely going to be a key element in this fight, using my distance, my reach and my speed. I think it's going to be tough for him to deal with. You hit it on the nose. There's some stuff Nogueira does really well and there's stuff I do really well. It's just the math of fighting. Who shows up and brings their A-game. I'm pretty confident that's going to be me.
Luke Thomas: You train with Amal Easton and I think he among all jiu jitsu trainers in modern MMA probably gets the least amount of attention. He gets a lot of shout out, but he gets the least amount of attention. For the people who might not know who he is, who is Amal Easton? Tell me about the Amal Easton that you know.
Brendan Schaub: Yeah, Emal Easton. He owns several jiu jitsu academies in the Denver area and he's a black belt under Renzo Gracie. I've worked with him now for four or five years and the guy knows the ins and outs of jiu jitsu with how it relates to mixed martial arts. Not only is he my coach by he's Nate Marquardt's, Shane Carwin's, Elliot Marshal's, just some phenomenal fighters in the UFC. He's a guy who I trust 100% and sometimes he definitely over works me especially when I fight jiu jitsu guys. Gonzaga and Nogueira, he just puts it into overdrive and makes sure my jiu jitsu defense and offense is ready to go to compete with these guys so he's definitely a huge element of my success.
Luke Thomas: You know, I'm kind of curious about that. Gonzaga and Nogueira, two fantastic black belts. But they have two different jiu jitsu games. How different is this camp from Gonzaga? Because to me, it seems like you'd need to find a big guy whose got a great guard game for this one where as last time, Gonzaga is a big guy too but he's a much better wrestler, better top control guy. How did these two camps differ jiu jitsu-wise and have you had the right partners?
Brendan Schaub: Yeah, I've brought in some great great jiu jitsu players. When I was in Brazil, all I did was train with a gi with a bunch of world champions and black belt world champions. In Denver I brought in some world champions as well so we have that aspect covered. I really don't think you can bring in a guy to mimic Nogueira's game. His wrist control and you can never count him out, it's tough to duplicate but I'm doing my best to be ready for August 27th.
Luke Thomas: Obviously not saying your coach is in anyway bad, but just the wealth of talent in Brazil, how different was it not only training in a gi but such a bevy of insanely talented guys?
Brendan Schaub: You know, it's all they do. It'd be like jumping on a basketball court in New York City. They grow up doing it. It's all they focus on so it's just a different world, they can go for hours in the gi and it's what they love to do. So it's just a different feeling there. It's amazing. Jiu jitsu is my number one passion in this sport and I'm so into it so for me, it's not work. I ate up every moment of it but I definitely got some great jiu jitsu in Brazil. But to be honest, the best training I ever got was in America in New York City at Renzo Gracie's. It was like the Pro Bowl of jiu jitsu players there and that was a day worth going there.
Luke Thomas: Anything notable that you can share with us that really sticks in your mind?
Brendan Schaub: You would think they'd take care of a brother because Renzo is like "oh come in!" and "here, go with him!" and like I said, I'm a huge jiu jitsu fan and that's Rolles Gracie. So I go with him for five minutes and I thought he was gonna choke the lights out on me and I get done and I'm like "thank go that's over". And then "oh come over here, check this out" and here comes freaking Roger Gracie, number one jiu jitsu player in world. "Alright man, this is cool" and it's not like we're starting from the feet: he has mount on you. So I just kinda go thrown to the wolves time after time and it was cool man, you either sink or swim and I think I earned those guys' respect and Renzo is a big supporter of mine and I talk to him pretty frequently. It's pretty cool for me.
Luke Thomas: How do you think the time off is gonna do him? Obviously the typical maximum that we hear and there's plenty of evidence that time off can be troublesome for you. But we just saw Rashad Evans last week and other guys have done it as well, they take that time off to heal and really, truly heal and get back and study. Do you believe that Nogueira is in this place or that he is in the twilight of his career and maybe his body can't hold up anymore. What do you expect of him?
Brendan Schaub: You're talking about a guy who I think this is his 40th fight so ring rust isn't a factor for him. I think I'd be naive to think "oh it's gonna take him a little bit to get used to the crowd". You're talking about a guy who fought in THE BIGGEST FIGHTS in the world so ring rust isn't a factor. For him, it's like riding a bike. I'm trying to get to that point and get some more experience but when it comes to experience? Yeah my hat is off to him and he definitely excels in that category when you compare the two of us.
Luke Thomas: Do you ever think "I want to beat Nogueira like other guys have beaten Nogueira" be it Fedor or Cain. Are you trying to write a signature by it? I guess the question is if there is any vanity in the win should you get it?
Brendan Schaub: No, I'm going out there to fight Nogueira on a stage that neither of those guys have done. Cain fought him in Australia which is neutral. I think Fedor fought him over in Japan so this is new territory. With that Brazilian crowd behind him, this is going to be the closest thing to the pressure of a title fight as you can get which is why I have asked for this and a win's a win. This thing isn't going to the judges. You're crazy if you think I'm letting this go to the judges. If it goes to the third round you're gonna see some crazy stuff from me to try and finish this guy. I'll take the win however I can get it. All I can guarantee is that it won't go to a decision.
Luke Thomas: It's a very cliche question to say this is the toughest fight of your life or the most important one and certainly it's tough and certainly it's important. But what I'm asking is, for a guy who has had a variety of athletic achievements and failures and a career in athletics beyond MMA, among all athletic challenges where does this one rank?
Brendan Schaub: Number one. I'm sure you'd think not, but I'm fighting possibly the greatest heavyweight of all time in his backyard and man, I'm definitely the underdog in this situation and not only physically - it's one thing to get mentally prepared and physically this is gonna take a special effort by me on August 27th to beat this guy in front of his home crowd. So this is by far my biggest challenge.
Luke Thomas: Should you win and things go well, would you ask for the winner of Cain Velasquez vs Dos Santos?
Brendan Schaub: Yes, sir. I think I have a pretty convincing resume. I think if I were to beat Nogueira in convincing fashion and beating the likes of Gonzaga, Crocop, and Nogueira - no one in the division right now can say that. I think if you look at the layout of the land, I think it makes sense. What do you think?
Luke Thomas: I think either you, let's see how you do. I think that Frank Mir had a decent showing against Roy Nelson, not the most incredible showing but a good one I thought.
Brendan Schaub: I thought he looked great.
Luke Thomas: So either you get that winner, you fight Mir or you get the winner of the title fight. Depending on how things go.
Brendan Schaub: I like it what you're thinking man, I like where your head's at.
Luke Thomas: Let's look at it though. Overeem is wherever Overeem is, Lesnar is out, Werdum is in Strikeforce, Silva is in Strikeforce, there's Mir, Shane obviously just suffered the loss so he's not at the top of the list, Fedor is wherever Fedor is, Josh Barnett's in Strikeforce, then it's Nogueira, and then it's you. It's a real process of elimination. If you can beat Nogueira it kinda narrows it down.
Brendan Schaub: I agree man. It's like we've got the same mind here.
Luke Thomas: Speaking of your resume, you were talking about the lay of the land. I was talking to people on twitter about this today. Among your class and when I say your class I mean the guys you were with on the Ultimate Fighter. Your season, season 10. The three that are doing the best are you, Matt Mitrione, and Roy Nelson. You guys entered that show at different points in your careers. To you, who has gained the most and done the most with their career since then? Is it you? Roy's fought some tough guys, he's been up and down but he's done well as well. How would you rank between you, Mitrione, and Nelson? Rank the top three.
Brendan Schaub: Obviously, I'm gonna be a little biased. Roy's right where he should be. He was a former champ in the IFL, he had a lot of experience so it's not like he could come to the UFC and fight other up and comers. I had four fights when I fought Roy Nelson. Matt is a guy who didn't have a lot of experience at all and he's doing well. The UFC's bringing him along slowly and he's taking care of business. Matt's gonna be a real threat down the road. Myself, I started off kind of fighting the other up and comers and I think that lasted a whole minute and thirty seconds between the two of them and then they threw me to the wolves with Gabriel Gonzaga and I beat him in a pretty lopsided decision and showcased my skills there. Then I get the likes of Mirko Crocop and now I'm fighting Nogueira possibly for a title elimination fight so I definitely think I'm "1", Matt "2", and Roy "3" right now.
Luke Thomas: Any interest in a rematch with Roy, provided things go well for him and he has a way to the back of the upper echelon of the division?
Brendan Schaub: Yeah, if he were to earn his way back towards the top, it's whatever the UFC wants me to do. There's no animosity towards Roy. I see Roy at events and we're definitely cordial with each other, even kinda buddies. So there's no animosity, there's no revenge factor there. I get that question all the time. He's doing his thing, I'm doing mine. Life for me is good right now man so I'm just taking it one step at a time and I got Nogueira.
Luke Thomas: I saw on Twitter and I don't know if it was a few days ago or a few weeks ago but everything is such a blur these days. But I noticed that you said you said you're already on weight. Are you gonna come in a little smaller for this fight?
Brendan Schaub: Right now, I just got done with my third training session and I was 240. I'm usually right around there. I can honestly say this is the best shape and skilled fighter I have ever been so I definitely did myself a service with this one. That's what I'll say about that.
Luke Thomas: So give me your predictions for the other two fights that are really headlining this card. Shogun rematching Forrest, the Shogun that we saw against Jones didn't seem to have a lot to offer...obviously Jones played a role in that but who do you like here in the rematch: Rua or Griffen?
Brendan Schaub: It's which Shogun shows up. Is it the "Mark Coleman" Shogun? Is it the Shogun that fought Chuck Liddell? I think that's the real question. Which Shogun are we gonna see and you know, I think we're gonna see the best version of him with his home crowd behind him. If that doesn't get him up then it might be time to think about doing some other stuff. If it's the Shogun that we're used to seeing then it'll be a helluva fight but I'll still take Forrest Griffen.
Luke Thomas: And any chance that Okami can wrestle his way to victory in Brazil?
Brendan Schaub: Man, I think he has a better shot than everyone is thinking. When we were out there for the press conference he's about as big as I, if not bigger. That guy is an intimidating 185er man. He's beaten the best of the best. I think he's got a better shot than people are giving him.
Luke Thomas: Alright, Brendan Schaub takes on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 134: Rio at the HSBC arena at 9pm east coast time that day. Brendan Schaub thanks for your time and best of luck to you at UFC 134.
Brendan Schaub: Thanks a lot man, I appreciate it.