Titan FC 38: "Carl vs. Muhammad" comes to Miccosukee Casino in Miami, Fla., TONIGHT (Sat., April 30, 2016), streaming live to UFC Fight Pass subscribers starting at 7 p.m. ET. The main event features a name familiar to both World Series of Fighting (WSOF) and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) fans: American Top Team (ATT) standout Steve Carl, who will bring a career record of 22-4 to bear against the undefeated (8-0) Belal Muhammad.
Carl was formerly the WSOF Welterweight champion, a title he lost to Rousimar Palhares at WSOF 9, after which point he seemed to disappear from the scene for a bit. That's because he was filming TUF 21 in South Florida. To the surprise of many, he did not get an official fight in UFC after the season's end, but he's one of several well-regarded fighters UFC seemed to overlook.
Carl has big opportunities ahead like the inaugural Titan Welterweight title, though, so he doesn't seem too dismayed that UFC didn't give him a chance after TUF.
"I wasn't too surprised y'know. I had bad performances and it just kind of speaks for itself. I totally understand the reasoning behind it -- they actually didn't pick up many at all from that season. The season itself was great. I definitely think that season had more talent on it than most."
Carl doesn't blame anybody but himself for his lack of success on TUF -- he knows exactly why he fell short.
"I was quite out of shape before I came down for that show and got on there. I had no motivation because I couldn't get a fight from World Series, and I wasn't really training a whole lot because my training partner had suffered a knockout and he was out. I wasn't a part of American Top Team before The Ultimate Fighter. I got a call from both teams actually because I had just terminated my contract with World Series."
On top of that there was personal drama that left Carl with a troubled mind and lack of focus the entire season.
"The week before we went in the house to start taping the show I get a call saying that my house was robbed. I had a huge gun safe in there loaded with guns and ammo, titles to houses, checkbooks, my entire life was in that house and it was gone. I'm finding this all out tearing at the walls of a Ramada just losing my mind, and then I go into a house where I have no contact with the outside world -- and everything I've worked for is gone."
Police did ultimately recover the guns, but his other valuables were long gone. In retrospect, one can hardly blame Carl for coming up short and not going on to UFC's main roster, but the upshot is that Carl will end up being featured on UFC Fight Pass in a Titan FC main event anyway ... albeit at a slightly different payscale than UFC's.
"One step closer. You're still getting the same exposure, the same fans are still seeing you, so the platform is great. Pay is always a difficult thing in this sport (though)."
From Carl's perspective a guy like Conor McGregor is being shortsighted by refusing to come to terms with UFC about his obligations or compensation for UFC 200. Money isn't everything.
"Conor's just getting to the point where he's getting too greedy. They basically handpicked him and put the UFC PR machine behind him -- they made him who he is. They really protected him up until the Aldo fight, and now he's still just trying to hold out and get more money while he's already making more than anybody ever has."
Ultimately, it's not about money or McGregor though -- it's about Muhammad. Carl rates the undefeated (8-0) fighter as being a good test for him, coming in fully prepared on April 30 with no physical or mental blocks in his way.
"Belal's going to be a tough opponent. It's going to be a good scrap I think. He's really good in the cage, really technical really aware of what he's doing, but he doesn't have that killer finishing ability y'know. He's not out there just mopping guys up. He's out there winning on points. That's the exact opposite of how I fight."
Carl gets the finish in 86 percent of his 22 wins (17 submissions and two knockouts) whereas Muhammad gets it in just 25 percent of his wins (two knockouts and no submissions in eight fights). He's definitely looking for another finish April 30.
"I mean they've basically given me a time limit and they say you've got this long to beat this person -- and I try to do it as fast as possible. Don't expect five rounds. If everything goes right I'd like to rack up my 20th finish and my 15th first round finish in this fight."
Carl also had his eye on another Welterweight title fight last week. He was impressed with Benson Henderson's durability going five rounds with Andrey Koreshkov.
"Let's talk about Henderson for a second! Is that dude a vampire or what? He took some heavy blows, some heavy punches, knees, kicks, everything to the head -- he did not have a single mark on him! There was a couple of those spinning heel kicks that landed on the back of his head and I went 'How did he not go out from that?'"
Carl doesn't believe Henderson's future is to stay in his weight class with guys that are Koreshkov's or his size.
"He definitely needs to go back to lightweight. I think that's absolutely his only move at this point. He has to go back down to 155 and re-establish himself."
Much like "The Detroit Superstar" Daron Cruickshank, though, Carl doesn't believe fighters should be told how to make weight or what ways to do it are permitted.
"We're athletes, we're going to do what we think is best for us. To some degree some guys push it too far, but that's not on the mass majority, that's on those few individuals and that's going to happen regardless you know? You put all these new rules and regulations and guys are going to do MORE damage to themselves trying to get around those rules and regulations and trying to make those rules work for them. They're going to hurt themselves even more. These guys aren't going to change weight classes, these guys are going to go out there and they're going to completely KILL themselves for a longer period of time because you're forcing their hand."
Nobody is forcing Steve Carl's hand. He's ready to assert himself again as a top athlete at 170 pounds in Titan FC.
"When I go in for weigh-ins on Friday it will be my first actual personal encounters with (Titan) but they've been great so far. They're good at helping set everything up, they've been on point, and they've been out there pushing this fight -- so I'm happy with them."
Look forward to a drama-free, stress-free, fully prepared Steve Carl at Miccosukee Casino in Miami tonight, which is a short drive away from the ATT gym he calls home in Coconut Creek, Florida.
Complete audio of our interview is below and check here for more MMA news and coverage from MMAmania.com.