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(EXCLUSIVE) Brendan Schaub: “This fight is going to test me mentally”

Brendan Schaub is one of the fastest rising heavyweights in the sport today. He made a name for himself on the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, when he was the second pick of friend, training partner, and season-coach Rashad Evans. A former football tight end, Schaub finished all three of his opponents on the show and made it to the finals against Roy Nelson.

Schaub came up short against the more-experienced Nelson in the finals but didn’t allow the loss to set him back in the sport.

In his first two bouts following TUF 10, “The Hybrid” finished Chase Gormley and Chris Tuchscherer in a combined 1:54. Following the victories, Schaub got a major step up in competition at UFC 116, challenging former title contender Gabriel Gonzaga. The challenge was not only welcomed by Schaub, it was one he asked for.

“After fighting Gormley and Tuchscherer, I asked for a step up in competition and boy did they give it to me,” Schaub told in an exclusive interview. “Every up and comer gets that test, Gonzaga was my test, and I passed it with flying colors.”

Defeating Gonzaga by decision earned Schaub another big name in the form of Mirko Cro Cop. Some may have cracked under the pressure of facing a MMA legend, but not Schaub. To him, fighting ‘Cro Cop’ was as easy as punching in and out at work. “I clearly won the first round. The second round, because I lost a point, was even and the third round, I was winning. I got three or four takedowns, which set up the knockout. To knockout ‘Cro Cop’ is definitely a good day in the office.”

Now Schaub faces another legend of the sport this Saturday when he travels to Brazil to square off against former PRIDE and UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. It’s just another challenge that Schaub welcomes in his quest for the title. “I’m goin down to his home country and it’s going to be the most hostile environment possible, maybe the most hostile in UFC history. It’s going to test me mentally.”

Even though Nogueira hasn’t fought since February 2010 and is coming off hip and knee surgery, the American isn’t taking Nogueira lightly, knowing ‘Big Nog’ will have something to prove in his first fight back. “I’m worried about a prime Nog,” said Schaub. “This is the first time he’s fought in Brazil and he’s fought in some of the biggest fights in the world in his PRIDE days and UFC, he’s been a title holder. There’s no such thing as ring rust for a guy who has 40 fights. I’d be doing myself a disservice if I thought like that.”

Although he may be focused on the possibility of the old “Minotauro” showing up in Rio de Janeiro this weekend, he isn’t overly concerned with what the Brazilian icon might do, feeling he’s put in the hard work. “I’ve been training with some of the best guys out there. World champion jiu-jitsu guys. I’ve been at (Greg) Jackson’s with (Andrei) Arlovski, (Jon) Jones, and (Brian) Stann,” said Schaub. “I think Nog is the best heavyweight in the world in jiu-jitsu but it’s going to be one hell of a task for him to get me down there and I’m not too worried about what he does.”

Schaub knows that a win over Nogueira would be huge for his career, and he believes that’s exactly what he needs in order to get a title shot. “I think a win over Nog puts me right up there and gives me a pretty convincing argument to get the winner of Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez,” he stated. “It’d be five wins in a row and beating legends like Gonzaga, Mirko, and Nog in his own backyard makes me pretty deserving.”

Growing up in Colorado, Schaub is no stranger to cold weather and ice. So, when he isn’t training and fighting, he enjoys the good ol’ hockey game. “Besides the UFC, hockey is the best sport you can go to live. If you haven’t been, go.” Along with watching hockey, Brendan enjoys a good episode of Entourage, and when asked to rate Sloan (Emanuelle Chriqui) on the hotness scale, he let it be known that, “She’s a ten, bro. A frickin 10.”

The title is the ultimate goal for most fighters, and that’s definitely the case for Schaub. Being a former football player, I asked whether he would win the Super Bowl or just fight for the UFC title but the outcome would have to be determined by him and his opponent. His answer? “That’s a no brainer, I’m fighting for the UFC title.”

To learn more about Brendan and keep up to date on his trip to Brazil and his fight at UFC 134 against Nogueira, you can follow him on Twitter @BrendanSchaub and make sure to check out his sponsors: Ecko, Bony Acai, and Six Star Nutrition.