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5 Oz. Interview with former NFL All-Pro offensive lineman Carlton Haselrig

20010716jhhaselrig1.jpgTo call Carlton Haselrig an accomplished athlete would be an understatement.

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, 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.

  • egad81 says:

    he didnt impress me at BCX…. Yeah he came out like a ball of fire and layed on Ott for a while.
    If Gary Shaw that he was a good fighter… well tell the world when open tryouts are because I will be there.
    This dude is just going to be used as FLUFF for a marketing stand point. He had a large group of fans at the BCX show… so you know he sells tickets.

    Are they just setting this dude up to get beat down by Kimbo in the near future?
    Or maybe Ray Mercer?
    Ray would kick his ass and they are closer in age.

  • Joel Harden says:

    Egad81, you must be a dumbfuck. Kimbo is a fraud!!!! Carlton would make him his bitch. He didn’t have to impress you at bcx; he beat shane ott so bad, shane came to his dressing room and got carltons autograph. Kimbo won’t take a fight with Carlton, Kimbo was offered a fight with Carlton winner take all and his management declined and said it was too risky right now, kimbo needs to get better before he is put in with someone who can move.

    Kimbo is fighting big guys who can’t move. Obviously you aren’t too bright because you should see that. Let me break it down for you.

    Bimbo Slice + Carlton = Free gold teeth for everyone in Johnstown, PA

    Carlton is supposed to fight in Elitexc’s may event but everone keeps backing out because they don’t want carton to beat that ass.

    Carlton is available to fight anyone in the MMA world, Egad81 you find the fighter and carlton will hurt him. You should be pimp slapped for even suggesting Kimbo could handle carlton. Don’t believe the youtube hype.

  • Ezekiel 25:17 says:

    Egad, you must be silly or something. Haselrig DOMINATED Ott from bell to bell. Ott said so. Nick Lembo, Counsel for the NJSAC, said so on a youtube interview. Anyone with eyes saw it.

    If you think that Kevin Fergeson’s handlers would even think of letting him get in with someone with a ground game, then you must not know MMA. FYI, the Mercer fight was a promotion and not sanctioned as an MMA fight. Look up Kevin’s record. 2-0 against Bo Cantrell (aka Bo Cantfight) and Tank Abbott (& Costello).

    If you think he’s fluff, maybe you can apply for his sparring partner. It probably can be arranged.

  • Ryan says:

    It is ridiculous to say that you are better than Carlton Haselrig. I have been a harsh critic in the past because of the troubles he has had but the guy is an absolute stud wrestler. However, I would like to see him take it more serious and get a camp. It is almost ridiculous as the guy above to think that you can train solo even when your one of the best Heavy Weight Wrestlers of all time.

  • DPK says:

    Sounds like he was a great wrestler and athlete at one point, but nothing in this interview made me say “I gotta see this guys next fight”

  • Joel Harden says:


    He whacked out a guy in the first round, who was a tough experienced guy and you don’t want to see his next fight? What are you looking for? Who should he fight to make you know he’s the real deal. Kimbo won’t fight him because kimbo is a protected fraud. Tell me who and I will get Carlton to fight him.

  • bjjdenver says:

    I wasn’t impressed with that fight either.

    however, Going straight to the NFL with no HS or college football experience is amazing, so he might be able to pick up some skills quickly. Unfortunately he is no spring chicken, so time is against him.

  • paddiosf says:

    I remember him on the Steelers if I’m not mistaken…how old is his 40’s ?? he played with Neil O’ Donell and Rod Woodson teams..

  • Sam Caplan says:

    Paddios. no offense, but did you even bother to read the article?

  • DPK says:

    #6, to expand on my point is that this guy is 42 years old, with one professional fight, and while it was a great accomplishment what he did playing in the NFL, over 15 years ago, he also was out of the NFL rather quickly with “injuries and off the field issues.”

    I was also not very impressed by the way he talked about his training camp, that didn’t sound like someone who is trying to round out his existing skill set.

    This 42 year old isn’t Randy Couture, or even Mark Coleman, and I never see him ever being put on a card without the mention of his NCAA titles, and NFL past. Unless they put him in with Kimbo, then he would be the “Kimbo Killer,” but still not a top notch contender

  • D. Mayeda says:

    Haselrig could be a really great story for MMA. He’s a phenomenal athlete. Brock Lesnar tried to go from NCAA wrestling to pro wrestling to pro football and couldn’t make it. We all know how great an athlete he is (no sarcasm). Haselrig’s ability to make it in the NFL as an All-Pro after a stellar amateur wrestling career is absolutely incredible. His age is a problem though, especially given his athletic history, including the injuries, and his prior out of sport problems. So I hope he’s not exploited by promoters, making a potentially great story a tragic one. Hope people take care of this guy.

  • Ezekiel 25:17 says:

    Again, Nick Lembo, former Penn State wrestler and the true godfather of MMA (for those that don’t knowhe crafted the legislation for NJ, the first state to sanction MMA and who attends all fights in NJ) was at a loss for words as to how Carlton dominated Shane Ott, a former IFL fighter who took Roy Nelson the distance. DOMINATED.

    In terms of age, think of George Foreman. George was a east at a young age. So was Carlton. George retired by 28. So was Carlton. George made a comeback after an extensive layoff. So did Carlton. George fought competitively into his 40s. So is Carlton. George became Heavyweight Champion at 45….

    You write the rest.

  • Ezekiel 25:17 says:

    As for this talk about injuries: people, do your research. His injuries were as follows:

    Broken right foot
    Broken right ankle
    Broken right thumb.
    Arthroscopic knee surgery twice.

    No major sports injuries in 13 years, which I suspect is enough time to heal, although I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.

    C’mon, think before you type.

  • Cabelo says:

    Biggest thing I see when I look at that injury list? Those are all injuries that almost every mma fighter has to deal with daily, and it’s due to the short duration and lack of impact that people with horrible knees can still be very competitive in MMA. Even if they aren’t fully healed, which I suspect is not the situation.

    He might have trouble keeping up with the Diaz brothers in a marathon, but mma seems a good fit for Haselrig. The only concern I would have (haven’t seen the Ott fight) would be that he might be a bit boring, doin a bit of laynpray. Just have to see, I guess.

  • egad81 says:

    #2 Joel Harden…. Name the place and time and I will roll with Carlton. shit I will roll with you too if you are a fighter. Sounds to me that you are a potty mouth with small man complex.

    Haselrig is a good athlete but he is NOT in top MMA condition. I doubt he would last with a top level fighter.
    He has natural strength and with all the WEIGHT he has some punching power.
    but as for a “GROUND GAME”… He might have been a good wrestler in highschool but he didnt show any BJJ against Ott.

    Being in the NFL is cool but it dont make you a good fighter.

  • Brent says:

    Sam, I wished you would have asked him about his 2-0-0 record against his wife.

  • mpstout says:

    Carlton is a freak of nature, a very gifted athlete, He has a resume that no one will ever match, But a rookie in mma at the age of42? My only question is why now? 15 years ago in the early days of mma he would of been unstopable! And if he did choose to fight then opposed to now, that carlton haselrig’s name would be mentioned in the same ranks as royce gracie, ken shamrock, and dan severn. But i belive if carlton keeps his nose clean, and gets hooked up with a real camp, there is still time for mr. haselrig to make his mark in mma!!

  • CRYSTALNYC says:



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