By Thomas Gerbasi
The months of anticipation are almost over, the seemingly endless breakdowns and arguments about to fade into the background as the opening bell for Saturday’s highly-anticipated featherweight championship bout between Jose Aldo and Urijah Faber gets ready to toll.
But there’s one more opinion to be gathered, one which may have more weight on it than any other considering that the man giving it knows the main eventers better than anyone in the game since he has spent 33 minutes and 43 seconds locked in combat with them.
So Mike Brown, who ya got?
“I give the edge to Aldo,” said Brown, the former featherweight champion who has some business of his own to tend to at Sacramento’s ARCO Arena when he takes on Manny Gamburyan. “The guy’s destroying everybody right now and he’s on fire, but Urijah’s no joke. If I were to bet on it, I’d put my money on Aldo, but the thing is, I’m wrong all the time. (Laughs) Just when you think you know the sport, you don’t know the sport.”
That’s the beauty of the fight game, and of this fight. On paper, Aldo – the champion – definitely has the edge given his power, speed, and the confidence that comes from winning his last six fights by knockout. But the challenger – Faber – brings some things to the table that Aldo hasn’t seen yet, including equally impressive speed, an unorthodox attack, and the stamina to go the five round championship distance with ease. Add in the hometown crowd cheering him on, and Aldo’s victory party may have to be put on hold.
It’s this assortment of questions that has made this bout the talk of the fight game, and the type of hype attached to it is unlike anything Aldo has ever seen before. Faber, on the other hand, is an old pro at the media game, and you get the sense that the more people watching, the better he performs. Will Aldo be the same way, or will he get the deer in the headlights look as he walks into the cage tomorrow night?
“To me, I don’t think that stuff matters and I don’t see it as being a factor,” said Brown, who owns two victories over Faber and who lost his title to Aldo in 2009. “It never is with me, but maybe it is with some people. Once I get out there, it’s all the same. It’s only one guy fighting me, I’m fighting him, and all the crowd and all the media, that’s all behind you and you’re just fighting.”
So according to Brown, round one doesn’t go to Faber, and the featherweight contender also thinks that Aldo is just as focused for his first title defense as he was when he took the title from him last November.
“Again, I look at personal experience, and for me it doesn’t matter,” said Brown. “Whether the guy’s horrible or amazing, I get nervous for every fight, and I train the same for all of them. I think he (Aldo) has got his head on his shoulders and I think he’s the same as me. I don’t anticipate him changing his lifestyle much or not wanting it anymore. I think the kid is still hungry, he wants to show everybody that he’s the best, and he wants to dominate. I don’t think the mental part of this will have anything to do with this fight – I think it’s gonna come down to skill.”
And when it comes to skill, both Aldo and Faber have earned their keep among the best in the world, making it clear that the winner may be determined by who makes the first mistake.
“They’re both great fighters, so anytime that you’ve got two of the top guys in a battle, it’s anybody’s ballgame,” said Brown. “It’s who’s gonna have the good night and who’s gonna put the punches together and who’s gonna win the shot. Sometimes you dip when you should have dodged, you run into a shot, and it changes the fight. That’s the fight game, and with these little gloves and the submissions, it doesn’t take much of a mistake to lose a fight.”
Brown has been there and done that, hitting highs and lows over the course of a nearly decade-long career.
“I didn’t realize I became a veteran until I looked at the card and I saw that I had more fights than anybody else,” he laughs. “How did that happen? I guess I’ve been around for a while.”
But Brown isn’t sticking around by the edge of his teeth. With his only loss since 2005 coming to Aldo (a span of 12 fights), Brown is still one of the best 145-pounders on the planet, and someone who may be in line for another shot at regaining his title should he beat Gamburyan. So for purely selfish reasons, who is he rooting for?
“Of course it would be Aldo,” he says without hesitation. “To be the number one guy again, I need to beat Aldo.”
Must be something to have that title. Guess that’s why Aldo and Faber will be fighting so hard on Saturday night.
“That title is the number one spot in the world,” said Brown. “If you’re a world-class fighter, that’s all you think about. That’s what drives them, what gets them up in the morning, what brings them to the gym. They both know what it’s like to be champ, they both know how to do it, they know that they can do it, and that’s where they want to be – they both want to be the best in the world, so it makes for an interesting fight.”