Stay out of Bryan Caraway’s lane on Saturday night, because he will be a young man in a hurry. If all goes well at the United Center, he will beat Eddie Wineland in rapid-fire fashion (or any fashion for that matter), run back to the locker room, get changed, and then corner his girlfriend, co-main eventer Miesha Tate, for her bout against Jessica Eye.
Ah, the glamorous life of MMA relationships.
“Overall, I think it’s more stressful,” Caraway says of fighting on the same card as his lady. So stressful that the last time they did it was on October 3, 2009. When asked about the significance of that date, “Kid Lightning” is initially stumped.
“I know I fought in 2009,” he laughs, but he eventually comes around to the night in Tacoma, Washington when he submitted Eddie Pelczynski in the first round and Tate knocked out Sarah Oriza in the second. It was a good time for the couple, who were on the verge of big things in their careers, and even now, with the stakes even higher, Caraway can find a couple positives about the logistics leading up to Saturday night.
“During the camp, I think it makes it easier because we both don’t feel self-entitled,” he said. “‘No, it’s my camp, I need this, I need that.’ (Laughs) It’s camp for both of us, so we’re both tired, both on the grind, both dieting. So in that aspect, it makes it a little bit easier. But as far as the coaching relationship goes, it makes it harder because I’m one of her head coaches and not only do I have to stress about my fight, but I have to stress out about her fight. I’m fighting first though, so I can get done and then go corner her. And I want to perform well. I don’t want to have a bad performance and have her worrying about me.”
Against Wineland, Caraway will be facing the perfect opponent to get him back in the bantamweight title picture, a place he was on the fringes of thanks to a 4-1 start to his UFC career after coming off season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter in 2011. A victory over Raphael Assuncao last October would have given him a three-fight winning streak, but he dropped a decision to the Brazilian, keeping him in the top 15, but out of the top 10. Wineland currently sits in the number six spot at 135 pounds, and Caraway would love to take that place for himself during what he feels is the perfect time.
“A lot of people say your prime for fighting is between 30 and 33 and it’s really awesome knowing that I’m right there and I still have some really prime years left,” the 30-year-old Washington native said. “It’s motivating. I’m where I need to be, I’m in the top ten mix, and I can be one or two really good wins away from fighting for that world title and further changing my life.”
It’s certainly not what Caraway expected when he turned pro nearly ten years ago, when the sport just started to explode on the U.S. scene. But even then, fighters 155 pounds and below weren’t part of the UFC roster, so the dream to fight in the Octagon was just that.
“You always dream, and the only reason I was fighting was to be a world-class fighter and be in the UFC and travel the world,” he said. “At that point though, it was just a dream. Now that it’s come to fruition, it’s pretty cool to look back on, but you don’t know. The lighter weights weren’t even in the UFC then and I knew it was going to happen; I just wasn’t sure if it was going to happen in my generation of fighting. But the sport really took off and I’m very blessed and thankful every day.”
Saturday will be a throwback of sorts though, not because of venue or situation, but because the man he’s facing is from that same old school, and Caraway is looking forward to meeting his fellow veteran in the Octagon.
“He (Wineland) has been around, and even though we’re not that old, we’re kind of like two old dogs,” Caraway said. “He’s the first WEC champion at bantamweight, and I’m pumped to beat a former world champ and it’s me or him. It’s dog eat dog. He’s already hinted about retiring, and I’m ready to help him make that final decision. I know Wineland’s a super tough guy, I respect him a lot, he’s scrappy and I love his fighting style. So it’s nice to fight a name, someone with a little bit more of a track record. I know what I’m gonna get.”