Homecoming. Packed house screaming your name. A big knockout victory in a must-win situation. If it sounds like a Hollywood blockbuster, it’s not, but it might as well have been for Brendan Schaub, whose 47 second knockout of Chase Gormley in March was only missing the popcorn.
“That’s a moment I will never forget,” said Denver’s Schaub. “I felt like I was in ‘Rocky’ or ‘Rudy’. I knew the crowd was going to be loud, and being at home I’d have that advantage, but I had no idea. Once I walked out there and the whole crowd went nuts, it was an indescribable feeling. It really didn’t matter who they put in there against me, I was ready to go to war in front of all my supporters and fans here in Denver. And after I won, the place was just going nuts. I lost my voice yelling going back to the locker room and jumping around. It was crazy.”
A finalist on season ten of The Ultimate Fighter, Schaub suffered his first pro loss in that final bout, getting knocked out by Roy Nelson last December. In many ways, the bout in Broomfield, Colorado’s 1st Bank Center was going to answer questions while dictating where his career was going to go. A lot of pressure for a 27-year old with just six pro fights, but he didn’t show any cracks in his foundation as he blitzed and finished Gormley in less than a minute. He admits that wasn’t exactly the plan though.
“Chase is a tough wrestler with some boxing in his background, so I expected him to come out there, wait for me to commit, and try to take me down, but he just came straightforward like a banshee, and I don’t think that’s ever a good gameplan against me,” said Schaub. “He ran into a right hand and it was kind of a quick night for him.”
And an emotional one for Schaub, who once again reminded fight fans why he’s one of the top heavyweight prospects in the game. Whether it’s speed, power, athleticism, or his solid training team, Schaub has all the ingredients to make some noise among the big boys, and the win over Gormley confirmed that diagnosis. But now comes the hard part, getting back to business after experiencing such a high, and doing it all over again. Schaub disagrees, stating that the hard part’s already done with.
“For me, the toughest part was getting back into the Octagon after a loss,” he explains. “My coach Trevor Wittman always tells me that you find out the most about a fighter after he’s coming off a loss. And coming off the loss to Roy, I think that Chase Gormley fight kinda made a statement to the other heavyweights. Yeah, I lost to Roy, but I’m definitely a force to be reckoned with, and now I’m on this path, and I don’t really care who they match me up against – I’m gonna go out there and try to get these wins, but by doing it smart and sticking to the gameplan, and using my speed against these big monsters they keep pairing me up with.”
The next “monster” for the 6-4, 245 pounder is the 6-1, 260 pound Chris “The Crowbar” Tuchscherer, who Schaub faces this weekend on the UFC 116 card in Las Vegas. Ironically, it matches two prospects who are training partners of Saturday’s main eventers, Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin, and for Schaub, working with Carwin while both prepare for pivotal bouts at the same time has lifted the intensity even more at the Grudge Training Center.
“Shane and I are always helping each other out, but we never fought on the same card, so for us, sparring we definitely let it all hang out,” said Schaub. “There’s not too much joking going on. We know the fight’s coming up, we’re both a little on edge, and I think it shows in sparring. We’re playing for keeps, and both of us walk out of there with sore jaws, and it’s a different kind of intensity. We both know what’s on the line and how big this is for both of our careers and just Colorado in general.”
And Schaub makes no bones about it – he’s going into the Octagon against Tuchscherer to set the table for Carwin and show off all his tools while not getting into a wrestling match with the two-time Division II All-American.
“This is a fight where I’m just gonna go in there and impose my will with my athletic ability and good footwork, and speed kills,” he said. “I’m a mixed martial artist and I think the days of a pure wrestler grinding out a win are over. I think those guys are dinosaurs. His (Tuchscherer) nickname’s ‘The Crowbar’ and that’s perfect for him. I can’t even remember the last time I used a crowbar - it’s old-school and tough, and it defines him. He’s tough, he’s boring, it’s a crowbar, man. He has to worry about my knockout power, my submissions, and my cardio. For me, I’ve got to pray to God that he doesn’t take me down and lay on top of me for three five minute rounds. But I’m not gonna let that happen. I’m gonna push the pace and break his will, no matter how tough he is. Everyone’s tough in the UFC. You don’t get to this level without being tough. So if your claim to fame is being tough, I think you’ve got a lot to worry about.”
Schaub’s confidence, affable personality, performances, and potential have also warranted a step to the next level in terms of his public profile, and he has filled in the gaps between training sessions with a number of appearances that have put him up close and personal with the fans who fill the seats on Saturday night and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Its part of the job, but one Schaub has embraced.
“(Teammate and UFC vet) Keith Jardine told me ‘you’re finally reaping the benefits of being a true professional,” he said. “But it’s crazy. All the stuff THQ (makers of the UFC Undisputed 2010 game) and the UFC send me to, before I had barely been out of Colorado, and since the UFC, I’ve been to New York with Dana White and Chuck Liddell, Vegas for the video games, and it’s just a dream come true and makes me want to work that much harder. I think some guys get caught up in this appearance stuff and missing training and a lot of them fight for the notoriety, but I don’t. I was born with a fighter’s heart, and I just go out there and take care of business. And if appearances and autograph signings come, they come, but if not, that’s fine with me.”
It’s the perfect attitude to have, and if anything, Schaub knows what it’s like to succeed at the highest level of this sport and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get there. Because even though he once harbored dreams of being a professional football player and was perilously close to realizing that dream, once he discovered fighting, he knew he had found his calling in life.
“I’m doing what I love, and it’s easy for me to get up in the mornings,” he said. “There’s not one day where I’m not thankful or that I’m thinking ‘God, I’ve got to go back to work.’ I can’t wait to go to bed and get up and go to work and become a better fighter. I think that’s scary, because with my learning curve and as dedicated as I am to MMA, I think the sky’s the limit and it’s just my destiny, and I’m not gonna take that for granted.”