Steve Carl will be the first to admit that he struggled during the early part of his career matching his physical skill set with his mental makeup.
No matter how talented a fighter might be, if there's something wrong in the head, the mind and body will battle against each other instead of working in sync. Carl saw that happen too many times when he competed under the Bellator umbrella in 2010 and 2011, when he amassed a record of 2-2 before leaving the promotion.
It took Carl some serious time to get his mind right, but once he figured out how to mentally attack MMA and his body followed suit, the results started to roll in.
Carl is now a winner of six fights in a row, including his last two bouts in the World Series of Fighting cage. His last four wins have barely broken the five-minute mark—if you added up the time it took him to finish all four opponents in total.
Carl is hitting on all cylinders right now, and he's getting so good he's finishing his opposition before he even gets a chance to try out some new tricks.
"I'm really unlocking my mental potential. These fights are getting easier and easier and I'm getting frustrated because I finally get that mental game right and I want to put it all together in the cage, but I can't because I end the fights too quickly," Carl told Bleacher Report recently. "The problem is when you're calm and you do everything correct, then the fight doesn't last very long."
Carl is positive his next opponent will give him the test he's desired for the last year.
According to the welterweight contender, he's been promised a slot against fellow World Series of Fighting competitor Josh Burkman later this year with the 170-pound title on the line. World Series of Fighting officials have yet to make any kind of announcement about the fight, but Carl is confident that will be his next opponent in the promotion
"We were told before the fight that the winner of my fight would fight the winner of Burkman and (Jon) Fitch. Ray Sefo came out and told in numerous interviews that's what was going to happen," Carl stated. "They mentioned to me afterwards, I haven't got a date or a specific time, but I can't see how any other matchup would be made right now."
Burkman has been equally impressive in his last few outings. He won a decision over former UFC fighter Gerald Harris in his first appearance for World Series of Fighting, then demolished Aaron Simpson and former UFC title contender Jon Fitch in back-to-back fights.
Carl believes Burkman is the exact kind of fighter that will give him a serious challenge.
"I've been wanting to fight Josh Burkman since World Series of Fighting 1. After he beat Gerald Harris, I said holy crap that's a great win for Josh, I love his style but I also love the way we match up. I think it's a good style for me. I think he would be an amazing fight," Carl said.
"Since then, he went out and beat Aaron Simpson and then he just went out and beat Jon Fitch. So I’m getting that matchup that I wanted seven months ago, and Josh Burkman is now ranked in the top 10. I get to fight for a title for it, it's perfect."
The title is an added bonus according to Carl, but it's not the main reason he wants the fight. He wants to fight a veteran, proven contender like Burkman to prove he belongs in the same sentence with the best welterweights in the world.
Carl will happily take the title as well, but beating Burkman is bigger than any gold he'd have around his waist when the fight is over.
"That title at the end of the day is just a strap to go around your waist," Carl said. "The title's great, it's all well and good, but at the end of the day it's who you beat and how you beat them, and not necessarily what you won by doing so."
Carl will now sit impatiently by the phone while he waits on the official word that he's facing Burkman for the first-ever World Series of Fighting title later this year.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.