Eric Schafer has not fought since March, when he suffered a dislocated wrist in his unanimous decision loss to Jason Brilz at UFC Live 1. When he does return to the cage, the former light heavyweight aims to do so in another weight class.

“What I want to do is drop down to 185 pounds,” said the 33-year-old Schafer (Pictured), a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “I want to be skinnier and be faster to take advantage of my quickness. Instead of bulking up and then cutting to 205, I’m just going to walk around at 210 pounds and make a more natural cut to 185. It’ll still be a tough division, but I think I’ll be able to fight more to my level of ability.”

The Milwaukee native has been far from idle during his time away from the cage, even with the injury he sustained against Brilz.

“A doctor told me I got misdiagnosed at the time and I needed surgery, but I didn’t get it,” said Schafer, who has nine finishes among his 11 professional MMA victories. “I didn’t do a lot of striking this summer, but I competed in a lot of gi and no-gi grappling tournaments with my hand and wrist taped up.”

Along with enjoying success and honing his submission game on the grappling circuit, Schafer also went into business for himself over the summer. Witness the birth of Eric “Red” Schafer Mixed Martial Arts in Milwaukee.

“In the midsummer, I started working on opening my own MMA gym,” said Schafer. “We spent all fall planning and getting the gym ready to open, and we officially opened Dec. 6, so we’ve been open about four weeks. You always see fighters who open their own gym, and they don’t do well in the first fight after they open their gym because they’re so busy trying to get everything ready. Now I know why that happens. This month has really been crazy, and it’s been a lot of work.”

Schafer -- who holds victories over Jason Guida, Rob MacDonald, Houston Alexander and Antonio Mendes -- has already seen at least one positive result from all the work that comes with opening one’s own gym.

“I’ve been teaching all of the grappling classes since the gym opened,” he said, “so I’ve been rolling several times a day, several times a week, and I’m in good shape.”

Now that his gym is up and running, Schafer hopes to get back to fighting sometime in the next couple of months.

“I talked to my manager a few days ago, and we’re looking for a fight in February,” said Schafer. “Physically, I’m in great shape, but I’m not in fight shape. I’m in shape for a fight camp. Give me [a] four-, six- or [an] eight-week camp, and I’ll be ready to go. So, we’re looking at fighting in February or early March.”

Schafer, who became a free agent after the loss to Brilz, holds a 3-4 record during his time with the UFC. His other losses, all at 205 pounds, came to the world-ranked Michael Bisping and Ryan Bader and “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 finalist Stephan Bonnar, all of whom are still solidly under contract with Zuffa LLC. Returning to the Octagon remains a goal for Schafer.

“Without a doubt, I’d like to get back to the UFC,” he said. “It’d be amazing to be able to fight there again. I’ve always been professional when I’ve fought there. I’ve made weight every time and not been content to just grind out decisions. I’ve always gone for finishes.

“I think [the UFC] likes me, but with so many next-level organizations out there now, like Strikeforce and Bellator, I’m going to keep my options open,” Schafer added. “I want my first fight back to knock the rust off, but then I want tough guys who are going to allow me to put on good fights, whether I win or lose.”

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