("Herb, thank God it’s you. I had the worst dream." PicProps: MMA Crazed)
Brendan Schaub is scared, you guys. Not just a little nervous, but borderline terrified. He’s afraid of what Mirko CroCop might do to him during their upcoming fight at UFC 128. He’s afraid of losing – this fight, the money, the momentum in the heavyweight division – and he’s afraid of what people will say about him if he does lose. The last thing Schaub wants is to have to spend another three months moping around the house like he did after getting KTFOed by Roy Nelson at the “TUF 10” finale. He doesn’t want to have to listen to the haters say “I told you so,” and he damn sure doesn’t want to face his teammates at Grudge Training Center on the heels of another defeat. That’s why Schaub tells MMA Fighting.com on Wednesday that he makes a point of scaring the bejesus out of himself before every fight.
"Every guy I fight, I create just this monster out of him,” Schaub says. “It doesn’t matter who it is – (Chris) Tuchscherer, Chase Gormley – I just make them into these nightmares. It makes me train harder and makes me so much sharper in the cage. It gets me focused."
Unorthodox? No doubt. Most fighters spend the time leading up to big bouts trying to convince themselves they’re capable of steamrolling a gorilla or beating up 40 ninjas, so long as they can get the fight to the ground or (depending on their preference) keep it on the feet. Not Schaub. He prefers freaking himself out. And what freaks him out the most? The thought of losing it all.
"In MMA, it’s weird," he says. "If a quarterback in football has a horrible game, he has next week to prove himself again. People jump on and jump off. In MMA you lose … and people write you off. Like with (Gabriel) Gonzaga. Gonzaga is an absolute nightmare. That guy, he lost to Shane (Carwin) and (Junior) dos Santos, and to Randy Couture for a title. But when I beat him people were like, ‘Yeah, but he’s kind of at the end of his leg with the UFC.’ Really? He beat, like, 98 percent of the UFC heavyweights. With Cro Cop it’s the same thing. That guy’s tough, man. That’s why I train so hard. It’s a lot of pressure."
Schaub says in preparation for his meeting with CroCop, he went back and watched all of the legendary knockout artist’s fights. UFC, Pride, K-1, everything. All the better to effectively horrify himself, to make sure he’s so scared that he doesn’t miss a single day of training and when he is in the gym, he gives it his all. Seems to be working, as evidenced by the brand new lump of cauliflower ear he’s sporting on the left side of his head. The one the other dudes at Grudge seem to think is so funny.
"He used to be such a good-looking guy," trainer Trevor Wittman said earlier this week. "Every girl who came in here would always say to me, ‘That Brendan is fine.’ Not going to happen anymore."
To hear MMA Fighting tell it, Schaub is working overtime driving to different gyms to make sure he’s as prepared as he can be for CroCop. What keeps him motivated through the early mornings and late nights? Through the bumps and bruises and giant growths sprouting from his ear? It’s the fear, people. The fear.
"Some days it’s really hard," Schaub says. "Especially a sparring day where I’ve got Shane (Carwin). I mean, Shane? Oh, man. It’s hard to get out of bed after that, but then I get up and drive an hour (to the gym). Other guys miss it. Those are the guys working at Kinko’s and trying to be fighters, you know what I’m saying?"