The World Series of Fighting will crown their first ever welterweight champion this Saturday at WSOF 6 as Steve Carl takes on Josh Burkman in Miami, Florida. While a lot of the focus has been on the UFC veteran, Carl has done more than enough to earn his own spot in the championship fight. MMAFrenzy recently caught up with Carl to discuss his upcoming bout with Burkman, his path to MMA, and more.
What do you look at with a fellow veteran in the MMA game like Josh Burkman?
I have a lot respect for Josh both inside and outside of the cage. I like him as a person and admire him as a fighter. As a fan though, I am not a big fan of his style. He is a controller and likes to control the fight. He doesn’t engage much on his feet because he likes to stay on the outside and pick his spots. He is smart and if you don’t pay attention to him he will catch you with a few counters before he comes in for the finish.
He has vastly improved his standup in his last several fights and I am looking forward to that. That is really one of the more exciting parts of MMA and I am ready for it.
Do you feel any added pressure since this is a title fight?
No. Not to be disrespectful, because I would be honored to win the title and main event, the title is not even in my head. I love that I am fighting a guy that many have in the top ten welterweights in the world. That’s where I want to be and that is what I want to do. I just want to beat one of the best in the world regardless of whether I get a shiny strap after the fight.
Do you enjoy being in the underdog role for this fight?
I like being in the underdog role honestly. I can’t really be put anywhere else honestly. I sometimes feel I spent my entire career being blacklisted because I’ll have a fight but then there’s no video or TV exposure. Always seemed to be the one to hear “Oh sorry, you’re the only one on the card whose fight got deleted.” So I just shook it off and was excited to get the win and looked for another one.
So that is obviously not going to happen in this fight. I feel like I am sort of coming out of the closet to a lot of fans in this fight. I have read online before that “I would be more excited for this fight if I knew who this guy was.” Well, look it up and just think I am being thrown to the wolves.
I read in a previous interview that one of the biggest changes for you in your career has been learning the mental part of the fight game. How do you handle that part of the game? Is it refreshing to put away the BS and be yourself now?
It is very relaxing. It was a load of stress off my body. I was not freaking out about training and I feel better about taking the time to let an injury heal. I no longer worry about the fight because I know that when I walk in there 100% and feeling the best I ever have that I will still remember how to punch and scrap. I don’t need to be 100% physically prepared because, let’s be real, at this point in my career I always have a few nagging injuries and aches. I know that it is ok to take a day to rest up because it will help me be better mentally and physically in the fight.
I have a pretty simple job when you look at it. I mean I am told “you’re going to get in the cage, fight this guy, and get paid.” What’s the worst that’s going to happen? I get beat up on TV? Well, I made it there and very few people can ever say that.
How did you originally get into MMA?
Honestly, it was completely by chance. I was in the military and my first duty station was in Korea and then I was stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas. So a couple of buddies took me out to a club out there and some guy came up to me while we were there, handed me a business card and asked if I liked to fight. He wasn’t a fighter or anything, he was just a poser who pretended to be a fighter at the gym. That said, it stuck with me and I held onto it for awhile.
I started fighting to gain more confidence in myself, not because I was looking to learn techniques to use on some body but because I wanted to feel safe walking down the street. It all spiraled from there as I found myself in a pro fight a few weeks later without any amateur bouts or anything. Then it didn’t matter because I didn’t even think of it as being a possible career, just a cool experience. But I found out that I was terrified in my first fight and even my first dozen fights. So I felt I was only using 10% of my potential because I was terrified, so now I feel more relaxed. It is just so nice to be where I am at now.
How long are you looking to keep fighting because it seems like you are doing it now because you love it rather than it being a job?
People have been asking me that for years now because you cannot do this forever. I don’t know. It’s not anyone else’s decision and I love where I am at right now. I am very content with the lifestyle and my sense of achievement is fulfilled. A lot of people that work a normal 9-5 try to act like they’re better than me because they work like that and I just feel that “I can do what you do forever but I am doing something I love.” The sense of achievement is something I have never found anywhere else.
Fighting has also seemed to open up some different travel opportunities for you as well
Yeah! I have had people ask me if I like fighting out of the country and I just think “Hell Yeah!” I mean why wouldn’t I? You tell me there’s a fight in Timbuktu and they’re only paying chicken scratch and I am going to be like “cool!” It is a free plane ticket to a place I have never been to and a new culture with so many new things to experience and then I get to fight!
I don’t care if it is the most rundown, third world country in the world, it is something you aren’t used to and that is what life is all about, getting out and experiencing as much as you can.
Would you say that fighting is more of a journey for you rather than a true career?
Oh yeah! That’s a good way to look at it. I don’t put too much pressure on it, like I did in the past. I used to feel so much pressure back then and that’s how that first fight turned into a career. I realized how fast it has gone and how I have now had 23 fights at a high level and I never imagined I would get to this point. I just know that eventually it’s going to be 20 years from now and I am going to be glad I did this. I have had people tell me I am going to end up in a wheel chair and I look at it like I can either be sitting on my couch when I am 40 feeling like I should have done something with my youth, or I can be sitting in a wheel chair at 40 knowing I had the time of my life, it is not a hard decision.
So when it comes to training, how has your submission game really seemed to become your calling card when you are generally known as a well rounded fighter?
Well, I am a smart fighter and I finish. I like to end fights so if I see it there I feel confident I can get the submission. I feel a mental edge in a lot of fights where I feel I can see ahead and work on setting up a fighter and trapping him. I’ll often throw on a half-assed submission to set up a better submission that happens when they try to finish the original submission. I just see the finish and decide to make the guy give it up.
In a lot of other fights I end up hurting them with my hands and then finishing them with a submission. I used to be obsessed with getting a TKO/KO because I didn’t want submissions. My first fight was over in 22-seconds and I ended up with a submission instead of a TKO because the guy tapped due to strikes. I was upset because I wanted that knockout. Then my submissions just kept adding up and I just figured “Well, forget it, I’ll just rack up submissions.” I wanted to scare guys with KOs but I realized it didn’t matter, and it actually helped, because guys didn’t worry about my hands.
So in my last fight I said before the fight that I wanted to stand and I wasn’t looking for the submission but then I ended up hurting the guy and then submitting him. You have to take whats there.
Despite this feeling like your “coming out party” to the MMA world, you will have now fought three times for the WSOF when you take on Burkman. What has it been like to see them evolve as your career has also evolved?
It was good to get on the ground floor because I was on their first show and then I was also at their last show as well to help. I have really been impressed with the progress they have made, because that first time I wasn’t impressed. I mean, it was a first time organization and it ran that way. So being at the last show it was cool to see how far they have come.
I love it because I have a chance to join this growing organization and get a chance at a title and a shot at being a face of the organization. I am really excited about that and glad I got in when I did.
Anything you want to say to the fans before you hit the cage on Saturday?
I definitely want to tell the fans to tune in because this is going to be an awesome fight. I guarantee that if that belt is on my waste that there will at least be one welterweight champion who isn’t going to be a five round decision fighter. I don’t plan on getting it to the second and if it does, I don’t want it to get to the third. I never want to see a fourth or fifth round because usually it becomes a match at that point rather than a fight. I am in there to stop the fight and I am looking to do it.
WSOF 6 will take place on the campus of the University of Miami on October 26. The October 26 lineup will be headlined by a WSOF welterweight championship pairing between Burkman and Carl. The card will be co-headlined by the fast-rising Marlon Moraes taking on fellow prospect Carson Beebe.
Be sure to look with more interviews with WSOF 6 fight card members throughout the week and tune in this Saturday on WSOF 6. You can follow Steve Carl on twitter @Steve_Carl and be sure to tune in when he takes on Burkman in the WSOF 6 main event.