One of the great things about the athletes in mixed martial arts is how many of them are as fascinating outside the cage as they are tough inside of it.
If you speak to Carlos Condit in a gym, or after a fight, you might feel the need to know where the nearest door is and have a map of the quickest escape route. He's a scary looking dude who lives up to his nickname, "The Natural Born Killer."
But talk to him on the telephone, where there are no preconceived notions created by appearance, or when he's reading a book in the airport, and you may believe you've come across a young politician.
Condit, the World Extreme Cagefighting welterweight champion, is not only one of the most intimidating men in the sport but also one of its most interesting characters.
He's one of the 10 best welterweights in MMA, but he rarely receives the acclaim that other fighters on his level have gotten. Even fighters such as WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres and featherweight champion Urijah Faber have much higher profiles than Condit.
"I do think that maybe, sometimes, I get overlooked," Condit, 24, said. "I think it's maybe because I don't present the average image of an MMA fighter. I'm just an average, normal guy. I'm well-spoken – not that other fighters aren't – and I'm not above average in physique, I'm not covered by tattoos, I don't date porn stars or any of that.
"I'm just a regular guy, and I think sometimes the persona of an MMA fighter are these superstars who are larger-than life-characters. I'm just me and I only try to be me, a normal guy who is interested in a lot of things and happens to have a talent for fighting in a cage."
His father, Brian, is the chief of staff for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Condit said he remembers sitting around the dinner table talking about politics and the big news story of the day, not about the depth chart of the University of New Mexico football team, for as long as he can remember.
Condit went on a tour of Air Force Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan last month with Faber, UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn and UFC middleweight fighter Michael Bisping. He was thrilled to be able to get a deeper understanding of the issues affecting the area and, ultimately, the U.S.
It may seem incongruous to some that the same man who all but mugs opponents in the cage is able to speak intelligently about the world political scene, but it's no shock to Condit.
"Fighting is an important part of my life, but it's only one part of my life," he said. "The last thing I want to be is one-dimensional, as a fighter or as a person."
He's one of the most multidimensional welterweights in the world, as Hiromitsu Miura is sure to find out when he challenges Condit for Condit's WEC welterweight belt on Sunday at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas.
Condit has won his most recent fights by submission, but he insists he has the standup game to go with it that will allow him to compete against the elite in the world.
Unfortunately for Condit, the WEC's welterweight division isn't nearly as deep as many of its others. Most of the good talent at 170 pounds belongs to the UFC.
Condit concedes that point but says he's not looking past Miura, who has made the drop from middleweight.
"When you start to think about fighting somebody other than the person you're scheduled to fight, that's when you create problems for yourself," Condit said. "I know the roster of welterweights in the WEC leaves something to be desired, especially when you compare it to the UFC. There are some tough guys here, but the really elite guys like (UFC champion Georges) St. Pierre are all over there.
"I want to be where (St. Pierre) is, and I know I still have a ways to go. These are the kinds of fights you have to win to get there. A guy like Miura is dangerous. He's a big guy and a good striker, and if you look past him you have trouble."
Condit is the type who always looks past the headlines. He learned on his trip to Afghanistan last month, which included stops at Bagram Forward Operating Base, Torkam Gate FOB, Mehtar Lam FOB, Sharona FOB and Blessing FOB, that there is more to the war than is seen on the television news.
He always has been eager to explore new opportunities and said he jumped at the chance to meet the troops and tour the bases.
"It was an opportunity of a lifetime to go to a place that will be remembered in the history books and that most people will never get to see or experience," Condit said. "It really broadened my perspective and gave me good insights on the world as a whole.
"The media is only able to deliver a small sliver of what is going on, good and bad. There is so much more to it than what we see, and I'm grateful I got that opportunity."
- Carlos Condit