If Brendan Schaub wasn't going to be able to play professional football after being cut from the Buffalo Bills practice squad, he was going to do something in sports. As he saw it then as he does now, he's an athlete. He needs to compete. It's part of a healthy and happy existence.
That probably explains why Schaub eventually became a professional mixed martial arts fighter, competing to this day in the UFC. In fact, it also explains why he's taken on another athletic challenge when he suits up with a rashguard and his bare hands at Metamoris 2 in Los Angeles, Calif., Sunday evening. Schaub is part of the all jiu-jitsu event where he'll take on multiple-time world champion and Francisco Albuquerque-black belt Roberto 'Cyborg' Abreu in a submission-only, non-stop 20-minute match on pure grappling terms.
"For me, it's just a great opportunity," Schaub explained to Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour when asked why he was taking part in this new challenge. "It's kind of like the Pro Bowl or Olympics of jiu-jitsu. It's the twelve top jiu-jitsu competitors in the world. When they asked me to do it, man, I was honored.
"The first one was such a cool, different kind of event that I'd never been to, so for me it's just competing in jiu-jitsu at the highest level. Jiu-jitsu's my passion. Everyone thinks I'm just a pure striker, but jiu-jitsu is really my passion and it's kind of a way to give back to jiu-jitsu and bring different eyeballs to it," he said.
First things first: would the UFC even let him do it? Jiu-jitsu may not cause the harm to the body professional prize fighting does, but it's not without risk. Still, UFC President Dana White allowed it with only one condition: "Just don't get hurt."
Naturally, Schaub isn't worried about that. He's also not worried about taking up professional jiu-jitsu competition as a means of sending any message about who is or how he wants to be perceived. This is about Schaub fulfilling his needs as an athlete on candidly but understandably selfish terms.
"It's not really a message," he said. "For me, I pride myself on being well-rounded. I think I have some of the best wrestling and jiu-jitsu in the heavyweight division and striking to go along with it.
"I just pride myself on being well-rounded. I train hard in everything: jiu-jitsu, wrestling, striking. For me, I'm a fighter. I love to compete, especially at the highest level. Obviously fighting in the UFC is my passion, but to be able to do stuff like Metamoris is just..it's a cool experience. I'm going to look back on my career and this is going to be one of the highlights."
Still, there are doubters. Abreu is a highly-decorated champion in the sport of jiu-jitsu as well as a technical innovator, known for his development of the 'tornado guard'.
"Cyborg is a nine-time world champ. He makes his living doing jiu-jitsu, so for me to just sit there and do straight jiu-jitsu with him would kind of not be the best way to go. That'd be a long day for me." Schaub plans strictly to use the skills he has and to leverage the major differential: size and athleticism. "I'm just going to use my athleticism," Schaub explained. "It's going to be a different pace than he's used to. I'm going to try and where him out and look for the submission."
Schaub, a jiu-jitsu brown belt, is so confident in his grappling skills that the mere suggestion this is a "win-win" scenario for him because he's an underdog with nothing to lose is insulting to him. "Everyone's like 'It's a win-win for you. You get to show your skills. You're not supposed to win this'. I'm think I'm like a nine to one underdog at least right now.
"It's not a win-win. I would not sign up for anything if I didn't think I could win. I'm going in there to beat one of the best jiu-jitsu guys in the world. It's really not even me making a statement. I expect to win. I probably won't even celebrate. I expect to do well. A win-win? That's so stupid. If you lose, you lose."
All indications are that Schaub's taking it seriously and against a competitor like Abreu, he'll have to. While he might be entering the contest with little expectation of a win, he believes he's got the UFC label on his back to defend, skills he's developed he can use and athletic advantages he can exploit. And he's doing it all because he can and wants to, satisfying the urge inside to compete.
Along the way, Schaub thinks people will want to tune in while he'll turn doubters into believers.
"I'm just going to stay athletic on him," Schaub contended. "I'm representing the UFC, so I'm going to look for the finish, man. You're mixing the UFC with a pure jiu-jitsu guy and I think a lot of people are excited to see what happens."