The most stacked World Series of Fighting card ever is just days away fight fans! The highly-anticipated main event at WSOF 9 this Saturday features a clash of talented welterweight warriors, as champion Steve Carl looks to defend his title against the infamous submission savant Rousimar Palhares.
ProMMANow was granted an interview with the always cerebral champion Steve Carl to discuss his journey to the top and how he sees this tilt playing out.
Questions from ProMMA’s Kinch in bold.
Answers from Mr. Carl are italicized.
How has this training camp been and how excited are you to defend your title on Saturday?
“Training has been going alright, I really don’t do a camp or anything, I just pick up my workouts and get myself ready to throw down. I’m very excited to defend the title, I think it’s going to be an amazing show.”
How much has life changed for you since defeating Josh Burkman to capture the WSOF welterweight strap?
“Life has absolutely not changed at all. Besides some little aspects, it’s mostly just people I do not know or barely know treating me differently. Some more people know who I am now but otherwise life’s exactly like it was before, which is exactly the way I want it.”
Your opponent Palhares is known for his submission game and the majority of your wins come via submission as well. How do you think you match up with Rousimar on the ground?
“I think Palhares is bad match-up for me on the ground and if I used my normal fighting style it would be tough. He poses a very unique challenge being the world class grappler that he is and that’s something I’ve got to figure out. Getting into a jiujitsu match with him is not something that I’ll be looking to do, but I’m not going to be afraid of it either. I think the key is when he tries to turn it into a jiujitsu match, I need to remind him that it’s still a fight.”
So this is a fight where you’ll be looking to showcase some standup skills?
“Yea, but I also know that at some point it will hit the ground, so I have to be ready for it.”
Let’s discuss the Palhares situation, how concerned are you with his past tendencies to hold onto leg locks after the tap?
“Well I think that everyone is concentrated on Palhares with the extra damage he causes with his submissions. One of the reasons I think everyone is so afraid of him is because not only is he a dirty fighter, but he’s one of the best in the world at what he does. At the same time, I’m not going to be too worried about that because I need to concentrate on what I need to do to beat him, not what he can do to beat me.”
From what I’ve come to understand, most gyms and coaches frown upon training heel hooks, inverted heel hooks and leg locks in general, due to the high risk of injury. Is that true in your experience? And if so, how do you prepare effectively to defend those kind of attacks?
“It’s definitely true, guys don’t play around with twisting heel hooks because you can get seriously injured. I’ve been working my leg locks a little bit here and there, it’s something I’m a little weary about, but it’s not something I’m doing every day, I’m not trying to change my game up so I can become a leg lock expert. I’m still just going out and doing my thing, I usually just train for every fight the same way and get myself ready because that’s what’s going to win the fight.”
One of the notable losses on Palhares’ record, where his opponent was able to stifle the leg attacks by pretty much punching him in the face, came at the hands of Alan Belcher. Is that a fight you have been studying in preparation for this bout?
“You know, everybody has been pointing to the Alan Belcher fight, saying that he laid out the game plan on how to beat Palhares, but when I watch the fight I cringe in my chair until the end. Belcher took him to deep waters and it was scary for anybody watching that fight, but Belcher did an amazing job defending the submissions and showing everyone how you can really break Palhares down. That’s not something I’m not looking forward to doing, but it’s something that I’m going to have to face if I find myself in that position. Getting in a leg lock war with Palhares is not on my schedule.”
This will make his second fight at welterweight and given his size and the amount of weight he cuts, I’m guessing his gas tank will certainly be in question. Is that something you will be looking to exploit and drag him into the deep water to drown him?
“Absolutely not, I honestly don’t see this fight going past the third round, I don’t even see this fight making it past the third minute. I think when we get out there it’s going to be an explosion and somebody is going to get the finish. That’s a way a fight should go and that’s the way this fight is gonna go.”
Everyone says that it’s easier to win a title then it is to keep it. How motivated are you to keep that strap and how has that translated into your work in the gym?
“It really hasn’t affected my work in gym at all, but I would say that this is a much tougher fight for me then it was to win the belt. At the same time, going into this fight the belt isn’t even a factor in my mind. I’m the champion and I carry the belt with me on the way to the cage but I have more to gain in this fight then I have to lose. The recognition I’ll get beating Palhares is going to be a lot more valuable then keeping that belt. Even as the champion, I’m going into this fight as a pretty big underdog, so winning this fight would solidify me with the fans and fighters in general. It would mark a turning point in my career where I’m no longer the underdog.”
Changing gears here a bit, when I spoke with your friend and training partner Derrick Mehmen prior to his fight at WSOF 8, he expressed that he was very upset that you were snubbed from the proposed super-fight card between WSOF and Bellator. What was your take on that?
“Well, they picked the names and put them out there and that’s kind of how it worked out. Yes I cared, mainly because they put Palhares on there instead of me against Douglas Lima and the most exciting fight in all of those match-ups would have been me against Lima. He’s the last guy to ever beat me and I’m the last guy to ever take him all three rounds, and I’m the last guy to drop him. This is my fourth fight with World Series of Fighting and I almost feel like I’ve been brought in to lose every one of these fights. When they came out the Bellator versus WSOF match-ups, and their only champion at the time wasn’t even on it, but two other welterweights were, that kind of felt like a stab in the back. But at the same time, I’m in the position that I am and I’m just going to get rid of all those negative thoughts and capitalize on the moment.”
Speaking of the promotion, everybody that works for Ray Sefo has great things to say about how the WSOF is run in regards to taking care of the athletes. All the super card things aside, what has your experience been with WSOF so far?
“Sefo is great, he’s got a ton of respect for all of us and he’s a really honest and down-to-earth guy that everyone can get along with. Working for this promotion is fairly easy, everything is run pretty smooth and I’m one of those fighter who doesn’t take much to keep happy. I’m just here to fight and I don’t need any extra attention or anything like that. It’s been great to be a part of the first show until now and see how things have progressed into what they are now.”
Let’s get back to the fight, I know you mentioned it before but give me your breakdown for how this fight plays out and how do you get your hand raised?
“I think this fight is going to be fireworks right off the bat and that’s about as far as the fight goes in my head honestly. I don’t game plan and I don’t try to plan fights out, I just get myself to the cage calm, collected and ready to fight. When that bell rings, I’m just gonna try to bring it to him and I think you’re going to see this go from 0 to 200 miles per hour very quickly. Somebody’s not going to be able to keep the pace.”
In conclusion, tell all the fans out there why they should tune in for WSOF 9 on March 29th.
“It’s going to be a stacked card and this is going to be the best main event they’ve ever had. I know for sure that Palhares and I are going to bring it, we’re the main event on one heck of a card, and win or lose I think this is a fight that everyone is going to want to watch. I think the finish of this fight is going to be epic, everyone is going to tune in. Whether they love Palhares or the hate him, they want to how this is going to play out. I just want it to be exciting as possible.”
Follow Steve on Twitter: @Steve_Carl
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