VANCOUVER - On a basement wall in his Colorado home, Shane Carwin has a constant reminder of how good life has been to him — and how much better it can get.
Above a pair of fight posters from his two title contentions in the UFC, hangs the interim heavyweight belt he took in a one-round beating of Frank Mir.
“My wife has it displayed in the basement,” the 36-year-old told a crowd of media gathered at the Tactix Gym for open workouts.
“It’s on a wall above the poster of Brock Lesnar and me and the poster of Frank and me. Right now that belt symbolizes that it’s done a lot for my family. But as far as me competitively, it doesn’t really figure in.”
It has been more than year since Carwin lost a heavyweight title bout to Brock Lesnar. The father of two hasn’t fought since and has undergone neck surgery leaving him sidelined for months.
He only returned to training six months ago but the former NCAA Division II wrestling champ says he has every intention of getting through his opponent Junior dos Santos and earning a shot at champ Cain Velasquez.
There’s an empty spot on his basement wall that would be perfect for another belt.
The soft-spoken Carwin clings to his “regular guy” roots and says it’s what makes him a competitor.
Raised by a single mom, Carwin still holds on to his other job as an engineer.
“Yeah, I still dabble on the side in other hobbies,” joked the 12-1 fighter.
“I’m a blue collar guy and I’ve worked a lot of years. I’ve worked construction 10 or 15 years. I’m that average guy and I love to compete and I’m fortunate enough and blessed enough to make it to the level that I have.”
Carwin says from the moment he heard Brock Lesnar had to pull out of the heavyweight contender bout with dos Santos due to a recurrence of diverticulitis, he was hopeful he’d get the call.
“I was in training when the announcement was made and when I was done it was like my phone just blew up with calls,” Carwin said.
Originally scheduled to take on Jon Olav Einemo at Saturday’s UFC 131, Carwin quickly filled the void left in the main event.
Both Carwin and dos Santos are known as heavy-hitting knockout artists.
Each has said he’d be surprised if the fight went to the final bell.
Yesterday, both seemed to soften their tone a bit.
“I believe Shane will try to take me down to the ground and use his wrestling,” said dos Santos, who sports an identical record to Carwin’s 12-1 mark.
“I think he has good boxing skills but I think my boxing is better so that’s why I think he’ll try to take me down.
“But I believe I can finish this fight standing up or on the ground.”
Carwin responded: “If Junior wants some wrestling, I can give him some of that.”
UFC 131 goes Saturday from the Rogers Arena in Vancouver and is available on pay-per-view.