Let's be real here; no one is giving Scott Carson a chance against Herschel Walker this Saturday at Strikeforce: San Jose.
No one has heard of him. He's 40 years old. He's a bum. He's cannon fodder for the star. Why couldn't they get a real fighter?
On the surface, those arguments might hold some weight. It's true that Carson has only competed once in the last 10 years. It's true that he's only fought five times since debuting in 1999. It's true that no one except for the hardest of hardest of hardcore MMA fans knew of him before the Walker announcement.
But it's also true that Carson has trained with the likes of Chuck Liddell, Jake Shields and Tim Kennedy. It's true that he has been training at Mark Munoz's Reign Training Center. And it's very true that he is taking this fight with Walker very seriously and sees it as an opportunity for something bigger.
"When I was 30, I thought I might be too old (to start), but if wasn't for Randy Couture setting the precedent, I probably never would have continued to train with the hopes of fighting again one day," Carson said. "I look at it like I have this fight in front of me. I have to win this fight."
Who Is This Guy?
When talking to Carson, you get the impression he's a good guy—friendly, humble and very soft-spoken. This is not the Carson whose quotes about "keyboard warriors" months ago got the interwebs a stirrin'. Turns out that was more a Strikeforce PR/promotional creation and in fact, he abhors trash talking.
"My least favorite thing to do is interviews. I don't want to come off like these other guys like 'I'm going to kill him.' That's just not me," he explained. "I do my talking in the cage. I just want to prepare and show my skill in the cage and not mouth off.
"Everyone says that Herschel is a nice and respectful guy and I think I am, too. I'd rather be known as a great fighter and not a big jerk."
In preparing for Walker, Carson has been reviewing his lone match and has seen some things he plans on taking advantage of. While modest, he is ultimately confident of his skills inside the cage.
"I don't think he's going to bodylock me and throw me to the ground," Carson laughed. "I train with some pretty strong wrestlers, so I'd be surprised if that happens. If it does, I'm real good on my back, getting up, reversing positions, scrambling and all that stuff."
Carson has been learning all that stuff since 1999 when he started training with Liddell in the shadow of Cal-Poly University in southern California. A high school wrestler, Carson kept up with training to simply stay in shape but eventually was coerced into fighting professionally.
But it was after his first taste of competition in 2000 that things went south; Carson ruptured the L5 vertebrae in his back. He would take more than a year off before returning to win two fights in two weeks. He then left the sport for five years to deal with the pain.
"I couldn't train the way I wanted to without it slowing up. It became unbearable and unmanageable at that point."
The Way to San Jose
In June of this past year, he was drawn back into the cage in a regional show against Lorenz Larkin. He admittedly wasn't mentally prepared and was knocked out in the first round after breaking his leg throwing his first kick of the night.
What made matters worse, according to Carson, was the refusal of the promoter to allow him to take an ambulance to the hospital because of the deductible he would have had to pay. He claims he had to hitchhike to the emergency room and forgo surgery due to the promoter denying the insurance.
"When you have a fight and the possibilities are getting knocked out or hurt and both happen, that's a bad night. When someone's leg and the future of them walking is worth less than your $500 deductible, that's when your promoter's card should be yanked."
Saturday will mark the end of a long road to San Jose, one that was delayed by a month when Walker had to postpone the fight due to a cut suffered in training. That gave Carson extra time to train, and for the full-time day trader in Huntington Beach, it's a chance to cash in on a lucky chance.
"If do lose the fight, it's a wasted opportunity. I'm looking at it like I've won the lottery, but I've got to to get the ticket back to the store."
Josh Nason is a New England-based freelance MMA journalist that covers live events, contributes to FIGHT! Magazine and frequently does radio/podcast appearances. He asks for your "like" for ESPN Boston to cover MMA. Follow him on Twitter.