"I can tell you I may not be the best fighter in the world. I may not have the same skill set as some guys do. I can always promise you that I will want it more than anyone else does.”
"If Chuck Norris was a human being and not an evil alien robot he would be Matt Brown." - Forrest Griffin
When Forrest Griffin speaks, people listen. Once the above sentence was uttered by the former UFC light heavyweight champion, the collective ears of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) faithful perked up and became specifically mindful to one particular soft spoken contestant with the indelible “Immortal” tattooed across his midsection. Such high praise captured the attention of fight fans and, ever since, they have been treated to a burgeoning fighter’s young career fueled on a gutsy “never say die” fighting style.
On November 20th at The Palace of Auburn Hills at UFC 123, Matt Brown will be stepping into the Octagon against fellow up-and-coming welterweight Brian Foster. Originally, Brown was scheduled to face 21 year old Canadian Rory MacDonald, but he was replaced due to injury. “I had not gotten into the specifics of training for Rory’s style yet,” Brown says of the minimal effect the change in opponent has had. “We were just approaching that point in training when Rory got hurt, so it didn’t change our camp any.”
“The Immortal” hones his mixed martial arts craft under the guidance of the legendary Matt Hume at his AMC gym in Washington. Now, Brown’s training will be geared towards the heavy handed Oklahoman Brian Foster. “Brian looks fast, strong and explosive,” Brown comments, sizing up his opposition. “He likes to come at you hard and he throws hard punches. He doesn't look like he is trying to outpoint you in there; he looks like he is trying to knock you out.” All of this isn’t unsettling to Brown and instead is quite familiar. “I'm trying to do the same thing to him. It looks like it will be an exciting fight.”
This fight will mark the 29 year old Ohioan’s eighth appearance in the UFC since his stint on TUF season 7. Besides receiving interestingly phrased compliments from Forrest Griffin while in the TUF house, Brown memorably knocked out the ultra annoying Jeremy May via devastating head kick. “I felt blessed to be there and wanted to do the best that I could,” Brown reflects on his time on the television show. “Some guys take it for granted and don't realize what a great opportunity it is. It got me to my dream.”
For Brown, talking about his time on TUF comes naturally, but re-watching it is another story. “I just watched my season of The Ultimate Fighter the other day because a friend of mine had never seen it. I was almost embarrassed to watch it. I just wanted to say, ‘I am so much better than that now.’ I definitely have come a long way. I'm sure in a few years I am going to be able to look back at where I am now and say the same thing.”
After TUF, “The Immortal” went 4-1 in his first five fights with each win by a referee stoppage, including a third round TKO over TUF: USA vs. UK winner James Wilks. The lone loss to Dong Hyun Kim was a well-fought, paper-thin split decision.
“When I am in a fight, I am never thinking about judges. I'm trying to finish the fight the entire time I'm out there. It may not be just one punch. I am always looking for a way to damage this guy or looking for a finish. It is the same way with the Dong Hyun Kim; I was looking for a way to finish the fight the whole time. He's just a good fighter. I think the one time I really had a chance was at the end of the second round, but I ran out of time.”
This past year has been full of ups and downs for Matt Brown. The “ups” could not get any higher with Brown becoming a father of twin boys in October. The “downs” have manifested themselves inside the Octagon as two submission losses against top fighters: Ricardo Almeida and Chris Lytle. “I was competitive in both fights. The fights were at the point where they could have gone either way, but I made mistakes.”
It is no mystery to Brown why he lost these fights, “In both those fights, I can see I got finished going for things I shouldn't have gone for.” In the rear naked choke loss in March to third degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Ricardo Almeida, it was a simple miscalculation due to over-confidence. “With Almeida, I was able to get up every time he took me down. One time I tried to stand-up and it was a bad time to stand-up,” Brown continues with his own blunt self-assessment. “My confidence got to the point that I thought I could stand-up whenever I wanted to and I gave up a bad position, which he capitalized on immediately and took my back.”
The July loss to the surging veteran Chris Lytle was a different mistake associated with Brown’s trademark “go for broke” style. “With Lytle, I was thinking about shooting in on him and taking him down because I knew he wouldn't expect that,” Brown explains his first error was hesitancy with this takedown because at the last moment he felt the urge to keep the fight standing. Nevertheless, Brown was partially committed and Lytle went after him, which is where Brown’s next decision cost him the fight.
“[Chris Lytle] went for the guillotine choke and I tried to flip him behind me instead of fight the hands from the guillotine. I tried to go for a big move and roll over and end up on top of him, rather than just stick to the basics and hand fighting the guillotine to keep myself in the fight.”
The buzz word for these losses in Brown’s opinion is “mistakes” and the solution is “discipline”, which is something he works on daily in training. “It might serve me better to be more disciplined. I should stick to my guns and stick to my game plan. Let the fight go from there instead of trying to force things.” Being able to find the happy medium of using Brown’s innate ability to take chances and risks in a fight while staying disciplined enough to not put himself in comprising situations is where Brown seeks to improve to win these caliber of fights in the future.
“A lot of times those things work out for me in fights and it makes for an exciting moment for me. And it makes for a pretty shitty moment for me when it doesn't work out for me. In my past two fights it didn't work out. Both those two guys are at the next level where I have to be disciplined because if I make a big mistake they are prepared to finish the fight pretty easily. That's personally what I think I need to work on the most.”
Matt Brown’s lucid and pragmatic critique of his losses is that of a man ready to move on towards the future and get back to his previous winning ways. “I have never had a problem getting motivated for a fight. I have never had a problem training to my full potential.” Brown is purely focused on his next challenger, regardless of a win or loss in his previous fight. It is that mental edge of loving to fight and being able to look at a fight objectively that will serve him best in preparation for his UFC 123 bout with Brian Foster. When that cage door finally does shut, Matt Brown’s greatest strength is simply his will to win.
“Sometimes situations come up in a fight where you are both tired, you are both worn out and it comes down to who wants it more. It's not necessarily about who has the better cardio, who is faster or who is stronger. It is literally who wants it more. I can tell you I may not be the best fighter in the world. I may not have the same skill set as some guys do. I can always promise you that I will want it more than anyone else does.”
And with the conviction in his gravely voice, you would swear Chuck Norris was talking to you.