Trevor Wittman was riding a roller coaster of emotions last night.
The head coach of Grudge Trainer Center in Denver, Colorado was in the corner of his friend and top protege, Shane Carwin, as the former interim heavyweight champion tried to earn another shot at UFC gold in a number one contender match against Junior dos Santos.
The team was hopeful headed into last night's (June 11) battle. That is until "The Engineer" ate a few shots and completely lost his way.
Things steadily went from bad to worse for Carwin, as he was completely outclassed in the striking department by the quicker and more technically sound "Cigano."
Wittman detailed his experiences backstage with Shane, in his corner and what he feels is next for his premiere fighter in this exclusive interview with MMAmania.com.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Shane's first major attack last night was a takedown attempt into a clinch along the fence. Was that part of the gameplan to go out there and pin Junior down right away or did he just see an opening?
Trevor Wittman: Our game plan was to kind of pin him up against the fence, dirty box him and rough him up. If the takedown was there, we expected Junior dos Santos to defend the takedown but we figured probably after the third or fourth attempt we'd be able to keep him down, hold him down and wear on him a bit. The game plan pretty much went out the window. It's easier said than done. Our game plan definitely was to grind him out along the fence, get him down, rough him up and dos Santos used his feet real well and kept Shane off balance with his jab. A lot of credit goes to dos Santos.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It seemed like Shane did get his hands on him at first. Was Junior being able to get away from the clinch so easily a little disheartening?
Trevor Wittman: Yeah it was disheartening and you know, it was one of those things that you can game all day but it's easier said than done when you're in there. We fell away from the game plan completely and we all talked about it afterwards and he apologized for going away from the game plan. Like I said, when you're at the top of the game and you have guys that shut it down very well, dos Santos has a wonderful jab and it's very hard to explain just how a good jab can keep you off balance, keep your weight shifted to the back leg where it makes you feel like you're reaching a lot and dos Santos did that really well.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I wanna get your thoughts on Shane's heart because he got a lot of credit on that from a lot of people for his performance last night, how he came back from such a brutal end to the first round.
Trevor Wittman: One thing I can say about last night, I've been in this business a long time and I've worked many corners in boxing and many corners in MMA. You win some and you lose some. Last night, he inspired me so much as a trainer. To be involved in the first round war where I thought the fight was almost gonna be stopped and could have been stopped because of the punishment he was taking on the ground and then he comes into the corner and he looked like a beat fighter. He looked mentally beat. He looked physically beat. He had already started getting cuts. I didn't tell him any instruction on how to beat dos Santos at that point. All I did was psychologically try to get him back into the fight. Nothing was working until I mentioned his family and when I told him to put his family in his mind and go out there and do this for your family, the whole energy in his body changed, his posture changed, the look in his eye changed and to see him go out there and overcome that, go forward and start landing kicks; he's not much of a kicker. He even tried a switch kick. He just got turned on.
To me, that was like watching a Rocky Balboa movie. Movies are made about stuff like that. As a trainer, I felt we won. We didn't win the fight but we won as a person and as a team. He did not get beat mentally. He went out there like a warrior. it's hard to explain but it's very inspiring as a trainer and I'm still in awe and still amazed at the way he looked in the hospital afterwards. The way he went out there and said "screw it" and put on a fight for the fans and there was no quit in him at all. Even when he had that nasty cut in the third round, I thought the fight should have been stopped at that point. That was a very bad cut and he still asked to go on longer. The crowd really got into that. It was probably the most exciting corner I've ever been in and it was an experience I've never experienced before and I'm still feeling it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Arguably, after he took that punishment, Shane came out in the second round and landed his best strikes of the night, two clean shots on Junior's chin.
Trevor Wittman: It was great. For Junior, I was a fan of him before this fight. I thought he was the best heavyweight out there besides Shane Carwin and I'm a fan of him now. It was a crazy thing sitting in the backroom and seeing Shane getting his stitches put in and feeling that energy that he'd went out there and fought a battle. We had Brendan Schaub back there and he just can't wait to beat Nogueira and try to settle the Grudge score with dos Santos (laughs). It was a chain reaction because our team is family and us brothers stick together. Brendan said, "I can't wait to get my shot against this guy." Like I said it was such a binding experience for us as a team and as a family as brothers. It was a wonderful night, even walking away with a loss. It was a wonderful experience.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): A lot of people were talking about Shane's cardio heading into this fight but he showed up in great shape. He was still bouncing around in the third round even after taking so much punishment and being in such a grueling battle. Can you talk about Shane's cardio?
Trevor Wittman: This is a confusing part that I think a lot of people just don't understand how a body works. The first fight, everyone talked about his cardio. He was doing rounds in the gym just like for this fight. Bringing the weight down, I don't feel a huge difference in his cardio. He did that for himself and I think a lot of times when you go out there and you just can't continue, you're gonna doubt yourself. Shane changed a lot of things. I don't think it would have changed if he fought Brock Lesnar at the weight he was at last night.
That Brock Lesnar fight, [Shane] hit the gas pedal for four minutes straight and he never let up. He never put it in neutral and when your'e an explosive guy like Shane is and you're pounding as hard as you can and you keep hearing the ref say, "I'm gonna stop the fight! I'm gonna stop the fight!" I don't care what weight Shane was at, he wouldn't have been able to continue. The cardio, we just tried to push really hard in this camp but whatever. I don't think it would have changed anything in the Brock Lesnar fight. Everyone doubted his cardio after that. If you think about it like a funny car, a funny car uses a full tank of gas going down a quarter mile stretch. Him going out there against Brock Lesnar, he's a finisher. He thought he had him finished and he hit that gas pedal, hit that gas pedal and kept going and kept going and kept going and his body locked up on him. If that situation would have happened in this fight, it could have been the same thing when you've got a big explosive guy like that.
[Shane]'s always had the cardio and for people to doubt him after that fight, last night was an example. He has a lot of cardio. He has a lot of heart and that Brock Lesnar was a one-time thing. He's a finisher and he thought he had him. Sometimes you overdo it and he definitely overdid it in the Brock Lesnar fight. I think last night showed, he was walking dos Santos down even after that last cut. Even after dos Santos took him down, he kicked him off and got right back up into a fighting motion late in the third round. If he had backed off, realizing that he couldn't get the finish in the Brock Lesnar fight, I think he would have been able to do the same thing as last night, gone three rounds. It's just understanding how the body works.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you think is next for Shane? I know in two of his last three fights, he's entered them with a year layoff. Is he hoping to get back in there sooner rather than later depending on his injuries?
Trevor Wittman: The layoffs were long and it's not bad for a guy his age. You kinda need them at his age especially with injuries like his back surgery and stuff like that. There's definitely gonna have to be a layoff after this fight with that war he was in. I told him it reminded me of back in my boxing days working with guys that had these swollen up faces and he looked like he'd been in a crazy boxing match except with four ounce gloves but there will definitely be a bit of a layoff after this fight and we'll be going back to the drawing board and talk to his family and really letting him take some time with his family to decide what he wants to do.
At 36 years old, we really have to make the right decision for what's next and I hope he goes out there again and does it again. I'm his fan and his trainer. Sometimes I put on my fan hat because I'm his friend first. There's a lot of people that want to see him fight again and I want to see him put on the fights he does. In the 14 fights he's had, every single one of them has been exciting, every one. He's a unique breed and whether we're walking away with a win or a loss, he's inspiring in every aspect and for a guy who still trains full time and works full time, I look forward to the next one.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): People have talked about a Roy Nelson or even if Shane takes time off to be with his family, that could set up a rematch with Brock Lesnar when he hopefully comes back in early 2012.
Trevor Wittman: I would love to see that. I would love to see a fight with Brock. Hopefully he recovers from the surgery. Our prayers are with him. Brock's a great guy and a great fighter. That would be a great rematch and I would love to see that fight for sure.
So what do you think?
Does a potential rematch with Brock Lesnar still interest you now that both fighters are coming off losses to two of the UFC's top heavyweight stars? Will Carwin ever make it back to the top of the division? Or has his window already closed?
Sound off, Maniacs.
And stay tuned for part two and three of MMAmania's exclusive interview with Trevor Wittman as he talks about Grudge Training Center fighters Nate Marquardt and Brendan Schaub as they prepare for huge tests in upcoming fights in the next couple months.