“The biggest thing about teaching is the importance of patience and realizing that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another person,”
Charlie Brenneman doesn’t go around advertising that he’s an MMA fighter. In fact, just the opposite is true.
“I was just telling my fiancé this the other day -- I have to figure out exactly what I’m going to say when someone asks me what I do because I normally stumble over my words,” said the 29-year-old Pennsylvania native. “I mumble over ‘MMA’ and ‘fighter.’ I never really know what to say. So if I can avoid it, I avoid it.”
That kind of bashfulness is a shame because the daring welterweight, who has trained with UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar, Ricardo Almeida and the Miller brothers, excels at his craft. Brenneman, at 12-2, shares a similar record with his next opponent Amilcar Alves, who brings an 11-2 record into their Saturday night scrap at UFC Fight for the Troops 2 in Fort Hood, Tex. Yet what makes Brenneman a compelling character goes beyond his accomplishments inside of the cage. If there is a Forrest Gump or jack-of-all-trades of the UFC, he might be it. Brenneman has been on a football field and tried tackling Herschel Walker. He’s stood in a batter’s box and tried to hit a 90-plus mph fastball from former Major League Baseball pitcher John Rocker. He’s taught high schoolers Spanish, coached collegiate wrestlers, and even earned a master’s degree.
“It was tough to get through my master’s because my passion was elsewhere,” he said. “I’m consumed with fighting and training to get better. At this point I’ve taken my education as far as I can take it.”
Did any lessons learned in your teaching background carry over to MMA?
“The biggest thing about teaching is the importance of patience and realizing that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another person,” said Brenneman, 1-1 in his UFC career. “I learned that as a wrestling coach and a fighter, too. It’s not always black and white, there is a gray area.”
Brenneman holds the distinction of having competed on the very first season of Spike TV’s Pros vs. Joes – and winning. He went head-to-head with the likes of former NFL player Kevin Greene, former NBA All-Star Dominique Wilkins, Major League Baseball standout Darren Daulton and retired NFL great Walker.
“I attempted to tackle him but that did not work,” Brenneman said of Walker. “The first two times he ran against me I didn’t even touch him. Another time I tried to tackle him and he bounced off me. Yeah, he hasn’t lost a step.”
Judging by Brenneman’s busy schedule, he hasn’t either. By his estimation, he often logs 150 miles or more a day traveling to training sessions at gyms in three different states. His home base is at AMA Fight Club in Whippany, N.J. He trains Brazilian jiu-jitsu at Renzo Gracie’s school in New York City, boxing in south Jersey with Mark Henry, and sometimes trains at Ricardo Almeida’s school even further south.
“And then on top of that, I still coach wrestling at East Stroudsburg University so I make the commute over there for practice,” he said.
In the week leading up to his next fight, Brenneman was the subject of 10 or so media interviews. While some fighters view media interviews as a chore, Brenneman welcomes the questions.
“I definitely enjoy it. I l enjoy being in the spotlight as much as possible,” he said. “I like to soak it in. It gets a little tedious here and there but overall I’m a big fan of it.”
I ask “The Spaniard” his impressions of Alves, a Brazilian who holds a black belt in judo and trains under world renowned instructor Andre Pederneiras.
“I know that he’s very well-rounded … probably his striking is most dangerous,” Brenneman said. “I know people say that he’s a ground guy but he’s got really, really heavy kicks and dangerous knees and those are some attributes that I’m definitely aware of. I definitely think I’m going to win. I wouldn’t be surprised if I submit him.”