Everywhere Brendan Schaub goes these days, it seems like there's some helpful citizen there to offer free advice.
It started when news broke that he'd be facing former PRIDE legend Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic at UFC 128 next Saturday night. At first it was relatively subtle, but as the fight has drawn nearer it feels to Schaub like every stranger he encounters knows exactly what he should do when he steps in the cage with the Croatian striker.
"I was just grabbing something to eat, getting a little chicken and rice bowl, and the guy there was like, 'Good luck against, Cro Cop. Hands up, that left high kick is coming!' I was like, 'Thanks man.' Literally day in, and day out it's like that."
It's the kind of thing that you can smile and nod at for only so long before it becomes intolerable. Perhaps the most bizarre thing about it, Schaub said, is that everyone seems to think they're the first to mention it.
"Everywhere I go I get, 'Hey, hands up. Watch out for that left high kick.' Oh really? Huh, I was just training all wrestling," he joked. "Thanks, bro. I'll start working on it."
But if the irritation of having every MMA-aware person he encounters suggesting possible game plans -- most of which boil down to, "Don't get kicked in the head" -- proves anything, it's something else that Schaub already knows: this is a very big fight, and all eyes are on him.
Say what you will about Filipovic. Yes, he's 36 years old and clearly on the downhill slope of a career that once reached lofty peaks. Yes, he's coming off a knockout loss to Frank Mir in a bout that was a snoozer right up until the knee strike that brought it to a merciful end. Yes, his stay in the UFC is probably approaching its final hours.
And yes, he's still an MMA legend who can knock you into the dream world if you're foolish enough to take him lightly in his sunset years.
No matter what the armchair cornermen out there might think, Schaub doesn't need to be reminded of that fact.
"You're talking about a world-class fighter who has fought everyone from Fedor [Emelianenko] to Wanderlei Silva to Bob Sapp -- you name it. He fought everyone," said Schaub. "A youngster like me, he's a huge test for me. I expect to go in there and pass with flying colors, but this is not an easy fight."
Perhaps that's why Schaub spent 12 weeks in training camp for this fight, hardly letting his foot off the gas pedal the entire time. While his coaches say he's always been a gym rat, this time around Schaub nearly ran himself into the ground with his extensive preparations.
That's because while he might have youth and speed on his side, he knows that sometimes it's the things you can't calculate so easily that make all the difference on fight night.
"I think experience is huge," Schaub said. "For me, this is my 12th fight, if you count my
Of course, that doesn't mean you can't give it a shot, which is exactly what Schaub has spent the last three months doing.
There might be those who think the Croatian has become such a pale shadow of his former self that he's hardly worth stressing so much over, but Schaub isn't one of them. Not with so much on the line for his own budding career.
"I get people asking me, 'So, is he washed up or what?' It's like, man, the [Gabriel] Gonzaga fight was a huge test for me. I didn't get the knockout, but I definitely passed that test. And from there, where do you go? You're with the Cro Cops, the Frank Mirs, the Big Nogs. For me, this is just another one of those tests, and it's going to be a tough one."
At least by now he knows to watch out for Filipovic's left high kick. Maybe there is something to be said for unsolicited advice from total strangers. Or maybe just for the power of repetition.