To say it’s been a crazy last couple months for Washington-based heavyweight Joe Carman would be an understatement.
Largely unknown outside his native Washington state, Carman’s decision to return to fighting after a couple years away resulted in him becoming the subject of The Cage Fighter, an IFC Films distributed documentary that premiered in theaters and VOD on February 2.
Shortly after the release of the film, Carman spoke with MMAWeekly.com to discuss the process making the movie, its release, and how he feels it will affect not only his fighting career, but his personal life, now that it’s out.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Joe, what was it like having a camera follow you everywhere? Is it intrusive, or was it something you got used to after a while?
Joe Carman: (The director would) mic us all up, and then he had a key to the house, the gym, and basically had access to my entire life. All it was, was one guy, one camera, walking around filming stuff. It ended up being like 500 hours of footage. Did I get used to it? You never really get used to it. There were a lot of times where we’d be training and the mic would be on me and get caught up on something and I’d be all pissed, so there would be a lot of outtakes with stuff like that.
MMAWeekly.com: What was it like to go through the process of shooting the footage to now having it released by IFC Films and accessible to the world?
Joe Carman: I wish I had more to tell about it. I didn’t really know about it. It was a new development. At the beginning, we talked about how it was going to be a small little thing among the families. We kind of said we’d do this thing together to get a break from our (everyday lives). We kept filming and filming, got the footage, time passed, it won some awards, and then I heard it had got sold. That’s how we’ve spent the last few months, and this whirlwind of not really knowing what was happening.
MMAWeekly.com: In watching the film, what sort of things do you take from it?
Joe Carman: There are two things that really meant a lot to me. When we talked about doing this initially, I said we were going to do it without filters; nothing is going to be hidden. I don’t want anyone to think we were trying to hide anything or fake stuff. I wanted to be an open door, that way you see me for who I am, both sides of me, all around me. You make that decision whether you like me or hate me, but I’m not going to hide anything. I’m not going to show you just the good or the bad. You make that decision (on how to view me).
The thing I get from this is all these years I’ve been training and all these years I’ve been in there fighting, I never really saw what it did to my family. I actually never thought about it. I was selfish about it. When you step into the cage you know you’re going to cause the person across from you pain, and they’re going to try to hurt you, but you never ever think about the pain and anger and issues you cause people outside the cage. When I was able to see that happening and unfolding in front of me, that’s what I got from it.
MMAWeekly.com: What’s it like seeing your life on film as opposed to living it in the moment during shooting?
Joe Carman: When you live it, it’s different, and when you go back and watch it and see how they can alter timeframes, you can tell when things weren’t done like that, and that’s the way movies do things. Movies change reality. It’s real, but it’s done in a way where it doesn’t feel real. It was edited in a way where it doesn’t feel like a documentary, it feels like a movie. Even now, it doesn’t feel real. People come up to me and ask to take a picture with me, and I feel I’m just some dude. They tell me I’m The Cage Fighter guy, but I say that I’m just Joe Carmen, just a guy.
MMAWeekly.com: How do you expect the film to impact your fighting career or your life outside the sport moving forward?
Joe Carman: As a fighter it’s been kind of weird because people have kind of called me out on stuff. I never meant to be any kind of… I never thought I was special. I fight to fight because I like punching people. That’s why I fight. I didn’t get into for promotion or to be the next UFC guy. I just like stepping in the cage and fighting. For the fight future for me I hope it’s positive. I’ve got maybe a couple more fights in me and then I’m about done and will just stick to coaching.
My personal life, and how it’s affected there, it’s hard to explain. There are a lot of things I’m trying to fix now. It’s like a tornado went through and destroyed everything, and now you’re trying to fix it. There’s some positive stuff too, but it’s kind of like starting at the bottom and trying to rebuild it.
MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for taking time out for us, Joe. Is there anything you’d like to say in conclusion?
Joe Carman: You can find me on Facebook and Instagram. I’m an older guy, and you hear a lot of guys talk about how they wish they could step in the cage, and I wonder what’s stopping them. There’s nothing says they can’t do it. You go in there, train, have that one fight and be done. You can be one of those guys who stepped into the cage and tried it. I’ve jumped out of planes and done all sorts of stuff, but stepping into that cage and being in the spotlight, it could be 30 seconds or nine minutes, it’s something no one can take from you.