Brendan Schaub is eager to regroup.
Up until a year and a half ago, the fighter known as “The Hybrid” was riding high. After losing in his official UFC debut in the finals of TUF: Heavyweights to Roy Nelson, Schaub had put together four consecutive wins, the last of which being a “Knockout of the Night” winning performance against the legendary Mirko Cro Cop.
But the last two trips to the Octagon have been difficult for the product of the University of Colorado’s football program, who trains out of the state’s famed Grudge Training Center. As you know he participated with Colorado in the College Bowl Games some years ago, so he knows what a challenge really is. At UFC 134 in Rio, he fell short in his bid to defeat two Pride legends consecutively as he was knocked out by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Earlier this year, he returned to the cage against “Big” Ben Rothwell, but suffered his second consecutive first round knockout loss.
The prospect of fighting Lavar Johnson at the UFC on Fox 5 card re-energized Schaub, only to see it slip away as Johnson suffered a groin pull during fight week and the bout was ultimately scratched. The bout has since been re-scheduled for UFC 157, the card set to be headlined by Ronda Rousey’s debut for the promotion. Schaub views a fight with Johnson as a way to put the rest of the division on notice that “The Hybrid” is back.
“[Lavar] might be the heaviest hitter in the UFC. It’s a good way to make a statement to the whole heavyweight division. The way I operate is off fear, so Lavar is a big scary dude who hits hard and he fancies himself a striker and so do I. I think my striking is better than his, so that’s why I decided to call him out.”
Johnson had collected two “Knockout of the Night” bonuses in his first two fights under the UFC banner, before dropping a submission loss to Stefan Struve in a fight that he took despite being only three weeks removed from his last encounter. Johnson presents a challenge for Schaub on the feet, but Schaub insists he’s not altering his approach despite two consecutive losses.
“It’s not my training or my camps as to why my last two fights went the way they did. It kind of shows my lack of experience when I rocked a guy and I go in for the kill and I get caught. At the heavyweight division you just can’t do that. I am learning on the go, I’m slowing gaining experience and you learn from your mistakes and I won’t make that mistake again.”
Once concern that has been brought up in MMA media circles on the heels of the two losses is of Schaub’s chin and whether it is suited to taking shots from the beasts at the upper end of the heavyweight division. Schaub scoffs at this notion, and turns it into an indictment of those who would suggest it.
“I really don’t deal with that stuff. If another professional said that then I might take it with a grain of salt, but for people that haven’t been in there or put it on the line. Or been hit with a 4oz glove by a 260lbs man then you really have no idea. That comes with the territory that negative stuff.”
One of the reasons behind Schaub’s nickname “The Hybrid” was that he was to be a new breed of heavyweight, one strong and powerful enough to be able to handle the size of the larger denizens of the division, but small enough to be able to confound those same fighters using his speed and agility. Some even predicted that fighters like Schaub would become the future of the division. With that not panning out as of yet, questions have turned to the possibility of a so-called “cruiserweight” division. A weight class that would split the division in two from it’s current 205-265 pound range. Schaub, for his part, is open to the idea but is content with the way things are situated for the time being.
“I think in the future that will happen, but right now if you list out the top heavyweights in the world, it’s not a very deep as it is. So, who would you have in that above 220lbs division? There are only a handful of us who could make 220lbs or 225lbs, Myself, Cain (Velasquez), (Junior) dos Santos and a couple of other guys. Other than that I think it kind of just thins out the division. Would it be nice? Yeah sure and could I do it? Yeah definitely 100%. I just don’t think we are at that point yet. I think the future of the sport there will be one of those cruiserweight divisions at 225lbs. Right now, the sport is still young and the bigger guys are pursuing the NFL and other professional avenues. The UFC is making headway and we’re starting to get some athletes in the sport. One day we will see that, but in my career, I don’t know. It’d be fun.”
Schaub will attempt to continue to prove that size is not an issue, even for heavyweights, when he takes on 250 lb Lavar Johnson in February.