Haselrig returns to cage
By MARKY BILLSON
For The Tribune-Democrat
PITTSBURGH — The next chapter of Carlton Haselrig’s newfound mixed martial arts career will be May 31 when he fights Carlos Moreno (5-2) at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
In the month following Haselrig’s first professional bout, a first-round knockout of MMA veteran Shane Ott (4-3) on April 19, the former Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro and six-time NCAA national champion wrestler at Pitt-Johnstown has dissolved his relationship with his promoters, had his opponent changed five times, and earned enough respect to be included on the undercard of the first MMA event to be carried in prime time by CBS.
“My only concern was getting ready,” Haselrig said of his tumultuous month.
Originally, Haselrig, 42, was to fight against a former member of the New York Giants in this bout, billed as EliteXC ‘Primetime,” as promoters hoped to capitalize on his final NFL season in 1995 with the New York Jets.
But Bobby Jones (2-0) bowed out with a neck injury, and Jarrod Bunch (0-1) declined for financial reasons.
A contract with International Fight League veteran Bryan Vetell (4-3) could not be finalized, an announcement Joe McCall (4-0) would take on Haselrig was incorrect, and two other names surfaced about before Moreno was secured for the matchup in the 265-pound weight class.
Haselrig, who won the United States Kick Boxing Association and BCX heavyweight belts by beating Ott, said he wasn’t concerned about the changing opponents.
“I look at (my opponents) and see the style they do, but it’s not ‘If he does this or I do that.’ I prepare myself for what I do the best,” he said.
Moreno, 31, is an Elizabeth, N.J., native who has not fought since Oct. 20, 2007, when he submitted to highly regarded Kevin Jordan (10-5) on strikes in the third round.
Jordan has been mentioned as a possible future opponent for Haselrig.
If he is, however, Haselrig himself may book the bout. Though he had been handled by his former high school teammate Rob Farmer, the business relationship has ended, though the two both say they remain friends and Farmer will be in attendance on Saturday night.
“It was me wanting to have control of my own destiny,” said Haselrig, who didn’t rule out reuniting with Farmer in the future.
The bout against Moreno is being billed as “Puncher against Wrestler,” as Moreno has been called in an EliteXC press release “a heavy-handed, one-punch KO fighter.”
Moreno went so far as to say he felt Haselrig was making a “mistake” by fighting him.
Haselrig, however, refused to get into a war of words.
“What else is he supposed to say?” Haselrig asked. “I won’t get into word matches. I do my speaking in the cage. I respect all opponents, I fear no one, and I prepare for everyone.”
Haselrig’s trainer, Jake Moore, believes his pupil has become a more versatile fighter than before.
“His striking has improved a great deal,” Moore said. “Carlton has nasty power in his hands. His striking has shown improvement in form and when to throw a punch.
“He’s always been good with ‘ground and pound’ because of his wrestling,” Moore continued. “Carlton, not only can he punch standing up, but this guy doesn’t have the ground game Carlton does.”
Moore said people will be “in shock” when they see Haselrig fight standing up.
“He has the heart of a lion. His mind-set is one in a million and he takes pride in his work. ... The way we work out people would say is insane. I’ve been around a lot of guys in this game and nobody has his heart. He’s going to win.”
In the days before the fight, Haselrig has been sparring less to allow the nicks and bruises on his body to heal and has been swimming, biking, and running more, the latter usually on a course of four miles.
The three-round bout is one of seven on the undercard that begins at 6:30 p.m. Haselrig’s bout will not be broadcast on CBS, though there is some hope highlights will be shown during the five fights featured on network television.
The 9 p.m.-11 p.m. telecast will feature a five-round bout between Kimbo Slice (2-0) and James “Colossus” Thompson (10- as the main event.
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