"It feels like it’s going pretty good. The engine sounds all right, the tires have air in ‘em, and I think we’re ready to race.” - Mike Brown
Mike Brown had been down this road before and it worked out for him. Take a hard loss, jump right back into the fray as soon as possible and get that bad taste out of his mouth with a win.
It happened in 2004 when he came back 28 days after a loss to Joe Lauzon with a win over Renato Tavares. Anthony Morrison was the victim less than two months following Brown’s defeat to Jose Aldo in 2009. So when the former WEC featherweight champion lost a heartbreaking split decision to Diego Nunes on New Year’s Day, and Chan Sung Jung was forced out of his bout three weeks later against Rani Yahya, Brown saw his opportunity to get back into the win column immediately and he took it.
This time, the strategy backfired, and a flat Brown lost a three round decision to Yahya.
“Obviously looking back now, I followed the wrong choice,” said Brown. “I was really depressed after the Nunes defeat, and they called me up and I was like ‘this will make me feel better, just getting a win.’ I’ve done it before, I’ve done it a bunch of times. A lot of times I’ve tried to come back quick after a loss, I fought again and I won. So it had worked in the past. The good thing about it is that usually, you just did a camp so you don’t have to go through the long, grueling eight to ten weeks of training. The work was already done. So I thought it would make me feel better, but I doubled my problems.”
Now having lost three of his previous four bouts (a 2010 loss to Manny Gamburyan came in the WEC), Brown has his back against the wall as he approaches Saturday’s UFC 133 bout against Nam Phan in Philadelphia, but you wouldn’t know it from talking to the always affable featherweight, who believes the break he’s had since January has done nothing but help him.
“I’m good,” he said. “I’m getting healthy and I took some time off, which I hadn’t done in a while. I was really active for a while, and I took a little time to regroup, to take care of my body a little bit and try to fix up the ol’ machine and get it running again. It feels like it’s going pretty good. The engine sounds all right, the tires have air in ‘em, and I think we’re ready to race.”
The air conditioning is working too, which wasn’t the case a couple weeks back, when fans on Facebook and Twitter suffered along with Brown as he went over a week without AC in his Florida home during one of the more oppressive summers in recent history. Thankfully, everything got back in working order for the tail end of his training camp.
“It cut out on me for half a day, but I’m golden right now,” laughed Brown. “The only thing that’s tough (when it was out) is that it’s hard to sleep. I would break a sweat just sitting around the house, but as long as I kept hydrated I would be all right. But at night, it would be hard to fall asleep.”
The way things were going, you might have seen Brown show up in Philly as a bantamweight, but that’s not happening, says the former lightweight.
“I think I’m at my optimal weight,” he said. “I know guys that have cut too much and gone down a weight class. I usually tell them that I can make 125 (flyweight) if I want to. If I don’t want to eat and I want to run all the time (Laughs), I can make 125, but I would change my body dramatically and I think I’m more effective at this weight with the muscle that I’m carrying. I would have to lose a lot of muscle to get down there and I would be a worse fighter, so going down is not always the answer.”
For a lot of fighters these days, the answer to a couple losses in the UFC has been to drop a weight class, and Brown admits that he has not only pondered a drop to 135, but a return to 155, only to come to the same conclusion – the division where he became a world champion in 2008 is where he belongs.
“I’ve thought both ways,” he said. “I think ’45, for the amount of muscle that I’m carrying and my height and everything, it’s probably the perfect weight for me. I’m not too big, I’m not too short. At ’55 I’m starting to get a little short for those guys and they’ve got a lot of reach on me, and at ’35 I’d be a little too skinny. I like the amount of muscle that I have now for using the power, and I don’t want to have to lose that.”
That’s a good thing to hear from Brown, because what it means is that he’s not looking for excuses for his defeats. As far as he’s concerned, he lost because it wasn’t his night, not because he was physically at a disadvantage. And as a veteran of the sport who has weathered ups and downs before, he knows that if he’s still on point fighting-wise, ups usually follow the downs. Of course that doesn’t mean he takes the losses well.
“There’s no excuse for the loss, I’m just bummed out,” said the 35-year old. “That’s why I think every fight is so important. They all go on your permanent record and people don’t look at the details, they just look at that record and see wins and losses, who you beat and who you lost to. It never goes away, and it’s there forever. I’m bummed about it, but there’s no excuse for it. I can just try not to let it happen again.”
Luckily, in good times and bad, he’s got a solid support system behind him at the American Top Team gym in Coconut Creek.
“It’s great because they (his teammates and coaches) have all had the same experiences you’ve had – the same highs, the same lows, and they know what’s going on. For instance, my wrestling coach, Kami (Barzini), he’s a guy who knows how to talk to people. If you’re having a bad day at practice or you lost a fight, he treats it like its history, and we move on and we talk about good things and good times and try not to dwell on the past. You study the tape a little bit and try to learn some things, but don’t dwell on it. You gotta move on and it’s a great support team.”
And ever since relocating to South Florida from Maine, it’s become home.
“When some people move, it’s really hard, but when you’re on a team like this, it’s so easy,” said Brown. “You immediately have 30-40 new buddies, new friends, and it’s almost like a new family, without having the long process of being lonely in a new place.”
On Saturday, family and friends old and new will cheer him on in Philadelphia, with a bunch of supporters traveling from Maine and Florida to the Wells Fargo Center. They will most certainly be entertained, considering the styles of both Brown and Phan.
“He’s tough,” said Brown of the Ultimate Fighter alum. “He’s been around the game as long as I have, so I know he’s well-rounded. You don’t play the game that long without getting good at everything, and he’s got solid striking and solid jiu-jitsu. He also seems like a really nice guy, and I look forward to the challenge of putting him in my record book and log of where I’ve been.”
When looking back at his decade long pro career, he calls it “a little bit of an outline of my adult life,” and that’s a perfect description of any fighter’s life in the sport. Each fight doesn’t just represent a win or a loss, but where you were at that particular time. At this moment, Mike Brown is in a good place, but he’s not content. He wants to wear a featherweight world championship belt around his waist again, this time with the letters UFC on it.
“The belt is the goal for sure, without a doubt,” he said. “But on the way there, I just want memorable fights. I want to make it exciting and have people remember me and enjoy what I’m doing, and not do it for nothing.”