In college, he was such an outstanding wrestler that he went on to become a six-time NCAA champion (three Division I titles and three Division II titles). The six NCAA championship titles is a distinction that is exclusive to Haselrig and is likely to remain so since Division II champions are no longer allowed to compete in the Division I tournament. While competing for the University of Pittsburgh of Johnstown, Haselrig would go on to defeat Kurt Angle. Based on his credentials, it’s not a stretch to call Haselrig one of the greatest amateur wrestlers in the history of the NCAA.
After college, despite not having played football while in school, NFL teams were so intrigued by his athleticism and strength that they recruited him to play football. Haselrig would ultimately agree to play for his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers as a 12th round pick. The late-round flier paid major dividends after he became an All-Pro offensive tackle in only his third season.
Injuries and off-the-field issues forced Haselrig out of the league in 1995 after a brief stint with the New York Jets, however, the competitive fire never died. A fan of mixed martial arts, Haselrig began to train in the sport and made his pro debut at the age of 42 on April 19 against former IFL heavyweight Shane Ott during a Battle Cage Xtreme card in Atlantic City, N.J.
Despite giving up a lot of experience to Ott, Haselrig came out like a man possessed and scored the upset TKO at 4:09 of round 1. The win was so impressive that ProElite-owned Elite Xtreme Combat has signed him to fight on the undercard of its first-ever CBS show on May 31 in Newark, N.J.
In spite of Haselrig’s high-ranking stature within amateur wrestling and the NFL, he is still a relative unknown to many MMA fans. As such, FiveOuncesOfPain.com decided to catch up with Haselrig for an exclusive one-on-one interview.
You can now read the transcript of our conversation with Haselrig below.
Sam Caplan: How long have you’ve been training MMA?
Carlton Haslerig: I’ve been training MMA approximately — on and off — for the last couple of years. But not anything in official like jiu-jitsu, or anything, but I’ve been training, staying active by doing something in terms of boxing and wrestling for the past few years.
Sam Caplan: Are there any specific camps you work at more than others?
Carlton Haselrig: No, just my own camp. I talk with different people and learn different techniques. Basically, I’m just going back over what I already know and seeing how that works.
Sam Caplan: Why did you decide to get involved with MMA?
Carlton Haselrig: Because I was looking at it on TV and now is the time to get up and go get some; to stop talking about it and saying I can do it and to just go do it.
Sam Caplan: What’s the status of your fight on the EliteXC/CBS undercard on May 31?
Carlton Haselrig: Currently, as far as I know, my contract is signed. That’s all I can really tell you about right now. I know my part is done. I’ve signed the contract and my management team is handling the rest of it. That’s all I can tell you about that. As far as anything else, that’s it.
Sam Caplan: How many prospective opponents have they approached you for your fight?
Carlton Haselrig: Thus far I’ve seen a contract with somebody else’s name on it and this is the second contract I’ve gotten with someone else’s name on it. So this is two contracts I’ve gotten so far with someone’s name on it for this particular event.
Editor’s note: since the interview, Five Ounces Of Pain has confirmed through multiple sources that former Giants FB Jarrod Bunch’s name was on the first contract and former IFL heavyweight Bryan Vetell was on the second. Bunch turned down the fight over financial concerns. Vetell had verbally agreed to the fight, but his management balked at finalizing the contract over concerns about an option for additional fights.
Sam Caplan: Have you signed a multi-fight contract with EliteXC?
Carlton Haslerig: The contract is specifically for a one fight deal.
Sam Caplan: Do you know if your management went to EliteXC to pitch your involvement, or did they come after you following your win over Shane Ott?
Carlton Haselrig: I’m not certain how that went down. But I’m happy it went down and I’m happy I am getting the opportunity to stay active and if I can get some more length out of it, that’s what I want to do. I’m here to fight. I’m comfortable; I’m getting better. I’m growing every day in terms of the sport and developing more confidence. The idea is to keep on moving.
Sam Caplan: There were a lot of critics, and I have to be honest, I was one of them, who didn’t think you’d be able to beat Ott. Did the doubt expressed by pundits give you an edge going into the fight?
Carlton Haselrig: I don’t remember anyone doubting me because I only listen to what’s in my head. Whoever doubted me, that’s just what they do. So like I said, I don’t listen to nothing that nobody else say except for what’s in my head.
Sam Caplan: Your off-the-field problems during your football career have been well-documented. In talks with your management, they expressed they weren’t happy with how certain things were covered. I wanted to know if you feel like the coverage of those incidents was fair?
Carlton Haselrig: Well, you know, that’s all water under the bridge. I’ve moved on and I’m happy with the way things are going right now. And coverage is just coverage. I can take it or leave it. Good and bad. It really doesn’t have any outcome on the fight. Good talk and bad talk is both the same. My main concern is focusing on fighting and getting ready for my next opponent. That’s where my focus is at right now. Everything that’s in the past is in the past, even the Shane Ott fight. And I’m looking to the next fight.
Sam Caplan: A big problem with the NFL is how the league is neglecting a lot of its former athletes. There are some ex-football players right now who are really suffering. Have media stories, such as the coverage of the issue on HBO’s “Real Sports”, been accurate? Is the NFL doing enough for its former employees?
Carlton Haselrig: No, I don’t think that the NFL is doing enough for their former employees. I’m not certain what you’re talking about with the HBO special, but as far as the NFL doing enough for their former players, there could be a lot more done but it’s still in the infancy stages of getting something done. Looking down the road, I believe since it’s being brought to the attention of the mainstream networks, and even you’re talking about it, as long as it’s being talked about then there’s always the chance of something getting done. So hopefully down the road they’ll continue to make advancements and changes on doing things to help out players from the past. Hopefully it will all work itself out in the future.