Carwin takes break from day job for UFC title shot
AP Sports Writer
Even if Shane Carwin becomes the UFC’s interim heavyweight champion this weekend, he probably still won’t quit his day job.
The 35-year-old mechanical engineer with a very sympathetic boss works at the North Weld County Water District in northern Colorado. He also has a wife, a son and a newborn daughter who need attention.
In his spare time, he’s a fast-rising mixed martial artist preparing to fight two-time former champion Frank Mir for a title belt. At UFC 111 in Newark, N.J., on Saturday night, the big-punching former college football player will get the shot he was denied twice last year by champion Brock Lesnar’s lingering intestinal illness.
No matter what happens at the Prudential Center in front of a raucous tri-state area crowd, he should have another great story for the guys back home in Lucerne, Colo.
“The day job for me is a place for relaxation,” Carwin said. “It’s a spot for me to get away from fighting and go sit down with normal people that really don’t care that I fight. I just have normal conversation and work in the real world there for a little bit, so it’s actually something I enjoy, and it’s probably something that I’ll continue to do.”
Carwin realizes he’s in a remarkable position, with a chance to win a title so early in his tenure with the UFC – and the ability to do it while still maintaining his other life as a white-collar professional with a family, a receding hairline and a mortgage.
“I’m fortunate enough to work the hours that I need to, and go in when I need to,” Carwin said. “My boss is very supportive, and he’s become quite the fan. He’s an athlete himself, so that definitely helps my situation with getting some time off.”
Carwin didn’t pick up MMA until he became interested several years ago while training wrestlers to compete. He was a three-time All-American wrestler and a two-time All-American football player at Division II Western State in the late 1990s, but went on to get a degree in mechanical engineering at the Colorado School of Mines with a minor in business and economics.
Carwin hasn’t fought in just over a year, but not by choice. A fight with Cain Velasquez last year was scrapped when Carwin was chosen to fight Lesnar in the main event of UFC 106 on Nov. 21 in Las Vegas, but the champion backed out less than four weeks before the fight with an illness that’s since been diagnosed as a nasty intestinal disorder.
The fight was moved to UFC 108 and then scrapped altogether as Lesnar’s illness lingered, throwing the heavyweight division into turmoil and necessitating this interim belt.
“The time off has given me basically a year of technique to work on,” said Carwin, who honed his takedown skills and his standup fighting. “When I step into that octagon, it will be a lot different than when I stepped in (against) Gonzaga the last time.”
Carwin’s first-round knockout of Gabriel Gonzaga last year only lasted 69 seconds, but the UFC community learned plenty about Carwin’s strengths and weaknesses. The veteran Gonzaga tagged Carwin with two big right hands and got on top of his less-experienced opponent, but Carwin escaped and quickly knocked Gonzaga senseless with one big punch.
Count Mir among those who were impressed.
“There’s been other heavyweights that came out on the scene really fast, and then the first time you see someone under any kind of adversity, you really get to see whether or not they’re going to make it,” Mir said. “Shane was in trouble a little bit earlier in the fight, and was actually in a very bad position … and within 30 seconds, he came out victorious with a knockout. It impressed me immensely, and that’s when I realized that he was somebody to be reckoned with.”
Although Carwin has worked on rounding out his overall game in the past year, he still has never been in a fight that lasted longer than 131 seconds, not even in his lower-tier bouts while rising in the MMA ranks. His strength and size are suited to dramatic, crowd-pleasing finishes – which is just fine with Mir, who bounced back from his loss to Lesnar at UFC 100 with a vicious win over Cheick Kongo last December.
Carwin won’t object to another short work night if it gets him back to his real life in Colorado quickly: His wife, Lani, gave birth to daughter Alexia on Feb. 24, and Carwin was back in the gym the next day.
He also knows the day job is still waiting for him when he wraps up the biggest fight of his life.
“I know all of these guys who are training in the UFC are also trainers and have their own gyms,” Carwin said. “Everybody has got their own jobs elsewhere, and this is no different. It’s a place I’m able to relax and use my mind and do something that I enjoy.”