It has been over a year since Shane Carwin fought inside the Octagon.
Last time we saw him, he was being pulled off Gabriel Gonzaga by the referee after knocking him out roughly a minute into their fight at UFC 96.
Since then, it has been a series of trials and tribulations for the 35-year-old Colorado native. Ultimately, once the dust settled, only former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir was left standing in front of his opportunity for a shot at a belt of his own.
The pair will now go head-to-head for the interim title on March 27 at UFC 111 in Newark, NJ, with the winner also earning the right to face current heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar later this year for proper unification.
"The Engineer" took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss a recent addition to his family, Mir's dangerous jiu-jitsu and similarities between James Toney and Kimbo Slice. He also wished to leave a brief message for Brock Lesnar.
Check it out:Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): First of all, congratulations to you and Lani on the recent birth of your daughter Lexi. Was the pregnancy taxing on you as well, either physically or mentally?
Shane Carwin: I think Lexi being late and my wife being overdue really stressed me out. I was worried about them a lot. My wife would push me out the door and tell me I would be being a good dad and husband if I was doing all I could in the gym. They really have been amazing in helping me stay focused.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Are you now relieved that not only the process is complete, but that both your wife and daughter are healthy? Has a weight been lifted from your shoulders a bit?
Shane Carwin: I think I owe them a lot of quality time when I get done with this fight.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): There is no appropriate transition here so let me jump right in. I wanted to get your thoughts on the UFC's recent signing of boxing champion James Toney.
Shane Carwin: I have heard the news and of course everyone at the gym is talking about it. James is a legit boxer, which means he will bring an A-level striking game. He will be in deep trouble with a wrestler though if you ask me. He's kind of like Kimbo (Slice) - a heavy handed striker, but lacking in the overall MMA game. I hope Toney takes it seriously and works on his Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and clinch work.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You were supposed to fight Cain Velasquez at UFC 104, then Brock Lesnar at UFC 106, then Lesnar at UFC 108, and now it is Frank Mir at UFC 111. Looking back over the past few months, do you feel like you have dealt with the emotional highs and lows as best as you could have?
Shane Carwin: The best I could. I got to know my fans and they have gotten to know me. Each event was out of and beyond my control. I did not get angry about it. I just used the time to advance my training. I have a lot of things I want to work on so I used this last year to evolve as a fighter. Being pushed from the undercards to the contender status means making sure I am a complete fighter. That has really been my focus.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You have also had the opportunity to heal your body over time. Can you clarify what physical ailments you were dealing with over the past few months and what your current health status is?
Shane Carwin: I had a small knee injury but nothing that kept me from training or anything like that. I was actually 100% when I started this camp for Frank and I have been throughout. My coaches, teammates and Max Muscle have really pulled a complete program together that has me feeling like I am still getting stronger, faster, and more explosive.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Could this entire process have been a blessing in disguise?
Shane Carwin: I think so, I mean knocking out Brock Lesnar would be a true blessing but in a way I would still have had some holes in my game. I have spent the last year preparing for four fights with distinct elite athletes and I have had to push myself harder and farther then ever before. I am usually my biggest critic and if feel like I am getting better then I am getting better.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Will this be the best version of Shane Carwin we have ever seen inside the Octagon?
Shane Carwin: I feel like it and when fighting a guy like Frank it better be. I have a tough opponent ahead of me whom I have take very seriously. I have a lot riding on this fight and I want to come out of this on top and with as little damage as possible.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Your teammate Nate Marquardt switched up his entrance music for his last fight. Will you do the same? What will yours be?
Shane Carwin: I am sticking with my regular song which is "Bodies" by Drowning Pool. Next time I may go with Metallica or Eminem's "Till I Collapse."
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Going back to Mir. It is a well known fact that he is very good on the ground with his jiu-jitsu. Do you feel like it would be in your best interest to keep the fight standing in order to win?
Shane Carwin: Yeah I heard about that. He has one of those fancy belts and all. I feel like he is going to have an edge when it comes to submissions. He has a lifetime of experience. It will be my ground-and-pound wrestling vs. his dynamic BJJ on the ground. Standing, I think I present two big problems for him.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Let's assume for a second that both you and Mir are content standing toe-to-toe with one another and turning the fight into a boxing match. How would you compare your technique, speed, and power in reference to Mir?
Shane Carwin: Until we are in the cage I can't really know. I feel I have the advantage in power and size. I have been working a lot on my head movement, footwork, and composure as well so we will see how that works out.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What is your official prediction for the fight?
Shane Carwin: I expect to finish him.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Does winning an interim belt hold any significance for you?
Shane Carwin: No, I was already the guy in line to fight the champ. It is a confusing thing to do and one of the things that turned me off from boxing. If everyone has a belt then what really is the value in having a champion? In my eyes and I am sure the rest of the heavyweights see it this way too, Brock has the only belt that matters. I am fighting a legend to retain my place in line and the young guns are on my heels nipping for their shot too. I feel like we are going to have a lot of contenders and any one of them qualified to hold that real belt.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): If you are fortunate enough to come away with a victory over Mir will you address Lesnar in your post fight interview? If so, what do you think you will say?
Shane Carwin: I don't think so. The UFC brass might ask me to call him out but I will do that right here, right now. I will fight him at his gym, my gym, or at Madison Square Garden. He wants to disrespect me, this sport, and the sacrifices that those who came before us made with his acting antics, and I can't wait to show him how real I am.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Any thanks you would like to pass along?
Shane Carwin: First off my coaches Amal Easton, Christian Allen, Trevor Wittman, Lester Bowling, and Loren Landlow. You guys have been amazing and I thank you for your time and efforts on my behalf. To my sponsors - Max Muscle, Beaver Buzz Energy, GD4U.com, MTX Audio, TCB Fightwear, Blowoutcards.com, Warrior Wear, DPMS Panther Arms, and my amazing management team for taking good care of me and my family. Last, but not least, thank you to Team Carwin. I appreciate you guys. I know I have been blessed with some of the best fans in the world. Thank you for being so wonderful and supportive.
Derek Bolender is a frequent MMAmania.com contributor. He is also a syndicated writer to FoxSports.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DerekMMAwriter.