Steve Carl initially hesitant to fight Rouismar Palhares because of checkered past

Zuffa LLC via Getty

For a time last October, once Rousimar Palhares over-torqued on Mike Pierce's leg and became something of an MMA pariah, the question was asked more than once: would the Brazilian ever get a chance to fight in a major American MMA organization again?

After all, Palhares had somewhat of a history with these kind of incidents, be it grappling tournaments or the 2010 incident against Tomasz Drwal which drew Palhares a 90-day suspension from the UFC. Throw in a 2012 positive drug test for elevated levels of testosterone, and even Bellator MMA -- a promotion which doesn't shy away from a few unsavory characters -- announced that it wasn't interested in procuring Palhares' services.

Yet things always seem to have a way of working themselves out. And now, five months later, here we are.

On the condition of a ‘one strike and you're out' policy, Palhares is not only scheduled to make his WSOF debut on March 29 at WSOF 9, he's also slated to do so in a championship fight against welterweight titleholder Steve Carl. Though for what it's worth, the 34-year-old swears that any controversy is behind him.

"This problem will not happen again," Palhares said through a translator. "It's a mistake, and I work about that. It's my fault, but it'll never happen again.

"I don't have much to say about the past at this point. I am focusing all of my energy on this fresh start with World Series of Fighting and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue fighting elite fighters on an internationally televised and well respected organization."

For Palhares, it's an opportunity that seemed unlikely as recently as last year.

Nonetheless despite his vast talents and name value, Palhares' peculiar little tick -- a penchant for ignoring tapouts to the detriment of opponents' limbs -- is at this point notorious enough that it inherently places any matchmaker behind the eight-ball, as not many fighters are willing to gamble with the well-being of their own limbs.

It's a concern that even crossed Carl's mind.

"The initial hesitation, the initial worry was when he first signed," Carl admitted.

"When he first signed with the organization, I think that rattled everybody in the welterweight division a little bit, and Jon Fitch came out and said, ‘I don't want to fight him.'

"It'd be very easy for me to say the same thing, but once I had that belt around my waist, I wanted to come off as a champion that would fight anybody. So given the opportunity to fight him, I took it immediately. And when faced with thinking about being in that position, and him not letting go (of a leglock), my stance really is, I don't care. Because if I'm in that position, I've already lost the fight. I'm not thinking about that."

WSOF President Ray Sefo has already made it clear that one slip-up from Palhares will signal the end of his employment with the promotion. Sefo added that Palhares' coaches at Team Nogueira have assured him that the Palhares' issues are a thing of the past, and that Palhares has expressed nothing but remorse for his actions, and thus deserves one last chance.

On that front, Carl, at least in part, agrees.

"He definitely deserves to keep fighting," Carl said. "I don't know if giving him a title shot right away was really deserving. But at the same time, all that controversy that does surround him puts him in a perfect spot to be in a title shot because there's going to be so many people tuning into this fight, whereas if he was just fighting a regular fight on the main card, it wouldn't be as big of a buzz.

"Wherever this fight goes, he has the ability to roll for leglocks," Carl said in closing. "I need to stay aware of where my legs are in comparison to his body, and I need to keep this a fight instead of getting myself deep into a leg lock, where I'm not longer able to fight and instead I'm just trying to defend myself."

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