Darrill Schoonover wasn't the biggest guy to walk through the door to The Ultimate Fighter Season 10, but his record spoke for itself.
With a flawless 10-0 record and a Shark Fights Heavyweight belt on his resume, it is clear Shoonover belonged there as much as anyone.
After a lengthy screening process of proving himself both physically and mentally, Darrill was accepted to fight for a chance to win a six-figure contract in the UFC on TUF 10 on Spike TV. The winners of previous TUF shows have gone on to win UFC gold.
Now 24, he started focusing on MMA when he was 17. Schoonover first started training in Las Cruces, N.M., and now fights out of Texas. He spends his spare time coaching family and friends in various combat sports.
Now Darrill awaits the revealing of his reality show. He awaits our realization of results he already knows. It is a tangled web that made for an interesting interview, but Schoonover played it perfectly.
Schoonover is optimistic about the heavyweight landscape. Even though fighting at heavyweight is his potential ticket in to the UFC, he feels his future may lie elsewhere.
"The heavyweight division isn't real stacked, that's why I think I have a good opportunity in the UFC with the heavyweights. At the same time I do want to get back down to 205 and start fighting at a lighter weight, because those guys are so damn big."
Darrill is obviously up for great challenges moving down to 205 and he knows it.
"I think 205 is the most stacked division right now."
It is encouraging to hear him talk about making his mark by tackling what is the toughest division in the sport.
This is all of course pending results of the show that in no way shape nor form was Darrill permitted to allude to.
His confidence would leave one to believe that someday, no matter the capacity, fans will have a chance to see him fight in the UFC.
Still though, Schoonover is taking it one day at at time. "Right now, I just want to fight whoever they put me up against. I don't care if they call me up on short notice, you know whatever, I just want to go up there and show what I can do." That is the mark of a warrior.
Fighting out of Fighters Forge in Capperas Cove in the Lone Star State of Texas, Darrill is capable and confident. The El Paso native comes across as humble yet hungry. The great people of Texas must be proud.
Schoonover stands 6'2" and weighs in around 250. His perfect record has come by way of stoppage in every match. Half due to strikes, half due to submission. Still, he is quick to point out "I love boxing more than anything."
Darrill's love for boxing does not limit his approach by any means. He considers himself a "gamer." "Whenever I have to fight, I always have a game plan, I plan specifically for that guy. That's why I'm half and half on my record."
Darrill has trained in Judo and as mentioned loves to stand up. He has his sights on improving a specific aspect of his game though. "I think I need to get my wrestling better." This is an area that he felt he improved upon during his time filming TUF 10.
Fighting on Team Rashad, Schoonover was able to gain useful knowledge from the former UFC LHW Champ. "I learned a lot, I learned a lot of different ground and pound, my wrestling got better just working with him. He is amazing."
With regards to his housemates, Schoonover was diplomatic when asked about the ever-present wild-man syndrome that perennially permeates the TUF house.
After a deep groan, he just said, "You know, Wes Sims is a good guy, but whenever that camera is running, that's when he wants to act all crazy." It should be fun to watch that unfold.
For a guy who has fought at 205, this seemed like quite a challenge to take on. What drove Schoonover to press on was his passion for victory. His winning spirit was apparent in one of his final comments.
"You know I just hate to lose, I just tell myself I'm going to win, I'm going to win, I'm going to win. I went in there and I saw everybody and saw how much bigger a few of those guys were, I just kept telling myself no matter what I'm going to go balls out and that's all I can say I did."
Darrill, that's all anyone can ask of any fighter. It has served you well thus far and fight fans look forward to seeing how you do on the show.
If there is one thing MMA has taught us, it is that size isn't everything, and in many cases, the smaller gentlemen are the ones you need to watch out for. Your coach could tell you something about that, I'm sure.
After a grueling tour of duty on TUF 10, Schoonover was happy to return home to those he missed most while away, his family and friends. "The first thing I did when I got home was watched UFC 100 with my uncle; it was my uncle's birthday."
A fine end to the chance of a lifetime, huh? Sitting down to take in a fight between the two best fighters in a division you may have just fought your way into.
The calm after the storm. Now the real fun begins. With the filming of the show behind him, it is time to show the world how it unfolded behind closed doors.
Will Schoonover come out on top, will his heart and warrior's spirit guide him through the turbulent waters of TUF 10?
Tune in to Spike TV Wednesday nights and see how it goes. It should be interesting when the big boys get to banging each other around. Don't miss it.