411Mania Exclusive Interview: A Few Rounds with Mike Brown
Posted by Bren Oliver on 12.02.2008
Fresh off a knockout of Urijah Faber to become WEC Featherweight Champion, and back in the Gym, Mike Brown takes some time out of his day to talk to 411Mania about the road he's travelled thus far in his career, provide insight on his title-winning performance, offer thoughts on his fellow 145-pounders, and even clue fans in on who he feels has the better haircut - Faber or Miguel Torres!
WEC Featherweight Champion Mike Brown has quietly fought his way up over seven-and-a-half years to finally be considered the world's top 145-pound Mixed Martial Artist by more than a few fans, fighters, and knowledgeable media outlets. He has earned the right to be in that specific discussion after compiling a 20-4 record with wins over respected peers like Jeff Curran, Mark Hominick, Yves Edwards, and of course the afore-mentioned Faber. He has stood victorious in eleven of his last twelve fights and has a win streak spanning three years, is hard-hitting, has solid submission-grappling skills, and is always well-conditioned.
There's no doubting Mike Brown trains extremely hard, always appears to be in peak physical condition as a result, and performs quite well in the ring as a result. However, beyond being an elite champion in MMA, the American Top Team product is also a huge fan of the sport he's chosen as a profession. Brown has been following Mixed Martial Arts for close to fifteen years and watched it grow into the sensation its become. He is very much like the very people who fill arenas around the nation - like the very people reading these lines - with the obvious difference of being arguably the best Featherweight in MMA.
Still, ask your average citizen on the street if they're familiar with "Mike Brown" and he/she might mention the Cleveland Cavaliers' head coach, a safety on the Chicago Bears, or possibly even someone they know personally. Look in your local phonebook and you'll likely find at least a dozen men listed as "Mike Brown". It is a simple, unassuming name lacking the flash of a moniker like "Urijah" or "Norifumi". That being said, what may be missing in bells and whistles is made up for by other attributes people would associate with his name - a man of the people who is hard-working; who is more concerned with giving his maximum effort than posing for pictures once he's succeeded; someone you're more likely to find at a MMA show in Des Moines than a movie premeire in Hollywood. The man from Maine personifies those qualities of being an "everyman", having both silent strength and a genuine dedication to performing at his best, with one important exception to the common nature of his name - when he knocked the sunshine out of "The California Kid" on November 5th, 2008, the gold-slinging WEC champ made it crystal clear there is one Mike Brown MMA fans and the public in general are about to become extremely familiar with...
"I won my first fight. I was proud but I wasn't totally satisfied. It was time to set a new goal."
411Mania: Before getting into your present, I'd like to first take a look back at the path you took to get where you are today. I understand you wrestled in high school and continued to do so on a collegiate level. At what point did you become interested in MMA? When you initially started, did you ever imagine you would achieve the level of success you have thus far or did you feel fighting would be more of a secondary career?
Mike Brown: I probably saw my first UFC in 94 started training a bit of really, really basic BJJ with some friends. The UFC was the most amazing thing to me. When there was a UFC PPV it was bigger than Christmas to me. I was a huge fan. I went to college in 95-96 I think because the UFC made me want to wrestle again. Just after I got out of college I had my first fight, and I did it because I was a huge fan and thought it would be cool to say I did one. One led to another and another.
Never thought I would be here today. I've always set small goals, attained them, then set larger goals there after. One step at a time.
411: Your first professional bout is listed as being on April 1st, 2001. How do you remember feeling before entering the cage/ring? When the referee raised your hand in victory, did you know at that very moment you were destined to be a professional Mixed Martial Artist? How would you compare the experience then to your emotional state before/after fights now that you've been in the sport for awhile?
Brown: My first fight to me felt like an out-of-body experience or maybe like a rollercoaster when the rollercoaster is making that slow incline on the way up to its peak. I won my first fight. I was proud but I wasn't totally satisfied. It was time to set a new goal. My next goal at that time was to have five fights
411: Looking over your professional record, you have almost twice as many submission wins as (T)KOs. However, you clearly have a great deal of power behind your punches, and you've never been knocked out in twenty-four pro bouts. Do you feel your stand-up is underappreciated? Would you attribute the differential in the method you've finished opponents with to simply how each fight unfolded, reliance on your submission-grappling skills, or something else?
Brown: I've been wrestling and training BJJ longer than anything else. I think sometimes I instictively grab people and take them down just becuase its what I'm used to. I do this a lot of times even when my gameplan is to stand and bang. I'm not sure why I do this. I've been boxing or kickboxing since about 1999. My striking coaches at ATT are phenominal. I have Howard Davis Jr as for my boxing, Ouali Mohammad for kickboxing, and recently the team added Cha from Thailand.
My stand up is good. People who train with me or have seen me in the gym know alot more about my level of standup. I know I have good power in both hands. I've KO'd alot of guys with 16-ounce gloves and headgear. In fights I always find myslf going back to taking my oppoent down..just instinct I guess.
411: How long have you been training with American Top Team and how did you end up landing with the group down in Coconut Creek, Florida? Is there currently any better home for lighter fighters, as you're working with (and alongside) talents like JZ Calvancante, Yves Edwards, Gleison Tibau, Mark Bocek, Cole Miller, and Marcus Aurelio? Are there any ATT guys who may not be on fans' radar right now but who you see making an impact on MMA in the immediate future?
Brown: American Top Team is amazing! We have so much talent in one room. We also have incredible depth, especially at 145 and 155.
Guys that you missed there are Din Thomas at 155 and at 145 we have Micah Miller, Rafeal Dias, Reynaldo Duarte, Marcos Da Matta, Mike Bruno and Chris Manuel. There are so many more I just forget without looking at our roster.
"My gameplan with Urjiah was just like my game plan in every fight -
keep a tight defense, swing with bad intentions, be on top if goes to the ground, (and) if I get put on bottom escape or look for submissions."
411: What were your immediate thoughts when you found out you'd be fighting Urijah Faber at WEC 36 for his championship? What was your gameplan going into the fight and how much of it did you get to implement before the knockout? How did the finishing sequence unfold from your perspective?
Brown: I was incredibly excited that they were giving me a shot at the title. It was a huge honor. Urijah is a great fighter but I am too. I knew I just had to go fight the best of my ability and should win. It's fighting though and nothing is certain. My gameplan with Urjiah was just like my game plan in every fight -
keep a tight defense, swing with bad intentions, be on top if goes to the ground, (and) if I get put on bottom escape or look for submissions.
That's always the gameplan with a well-rounded fighter. If he was really bad on the ground I would say take him down, but Urijah is well-rounded. The game plan worked...tight defense, swing hard...and I caught him.
411: What is your response to people who might feel your knockout win of Faber was the result of a "lucky punch" or doubt you have the ability to defeat him a second time? Is anyone more excited than you about the possibility of fighting him again to erase any lingering doubts and solidify your place atop the Featherweight Division?
Brown: Look at my record. Im 20-4 - I've fought many world class fighters. I am a world class fighter.
I've been around. I didn't take any short cuts to get here. It does bother me a bit that some people say that, but there are people that say all kinds of stupid sh*t. I'm sure Urijah and I will fight again. I look forward to it, because he is one of the best and I think the fans would like to see it. He has Jens in front of him next and he has that to take care of right now.
411: You tore some rib cartilage while throwing a punch in the Faber fight. How are you currently feeling? How long are you expected to be on the sidelines? Are you able to get any training in with the injury? Do you see any silver lining to the ordeal?
Brown: I'm already healthy and training again.
"WEC is by far the best group of 145-pounders on the planet. It is the true "World Title" in my eyes."
411: Did you do anything special to celebrate the huge win? Has being WEC Featherweight Champion changed your life in any significant way outside of an extended period at airport security check-in due to the additional metal item?
Brown:*laughs* That's funny - they do pull out the belt, look at a few minutes and congratulate you. After the fight I just hung out wiht a bunch of my good buddies and had some beers. It was cool. I had a lot of friends and family come down to Florida for the fight.
411: Any idea who you might be facing in your first title-defense? One of the names being mentioned is Leonard Garcia who is coming off a big knockout win of his own (over Jens Pulver). What do you know about Garcia and how do you feel your skills match-up against what he brings in the cage?
Brown: Garcia is tough. He's coming off two big KO wins over Pulver and Takaya.
411: Including Garcia, Faber, and Pulver, the WEC has a number of capable fighters to choose from when it comes to potential contenders to your championship - guys like Jose Aldo, Waggney Fabiano, and Joseph Benavidez for example. What are your thoughts on the WEC's Featherweight division as a whole? Is it the best grouping of 145-pound talent in MMA?
Brown: WEC is by far the best group of 145-pounders on the planet. It is the true "World Title" in my eyes.
"Back then it was about reaching goals and my goal was to someday make it to the UFC. I was so excited for the opportunity not only to fight in the UFC but to fight my all-time favorite fighter - Genki."
411: Your Featherweight title-fight against Urijah Faber was only your second contest in the WEC. However, it was your third time competing for a Zuffa-owned promotion, as you also fought master-of-the-entrance Genki Sudo at UFC 47 (on the undercard of the clash between Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell). What are your memories of that event and the experience as a whole? Do you ever see yourself moving up to Lightweight and once again testing the UFC's 155-pound division?
Brown: Back then it was about reaching goals and my goal was to someday make it to the UFC. I was so excited for the opportunity not only to fight in the UFC but to fight my all-time favorite fighter - Genki. It didnt go my way that night, but it's the fight game and that happens sometimes.
I really was very small and walked around at 155. Now I walk around closer to 165 and it would be a little easier to make the transition, but I know I am best at 145. I've only fought at 155 a few times because they were good opportunities.
411: You mentioned your interest in collecting Mixed Martial Arts memorabilia on a recent edition of "Inside MMA". What sort of items do you find yourself in the market for? Any unique/favorite pieces in your treasure trove?
Brown: Like I said before, I've always been a huge MMA fan, so I kinda collected UFC memorabilia back in the day. I think it started because when I first started watching it you couldn't find anything. Now it's easier to get stuff and I'm always at fights so my house is starting to get a bit cluttered.
I've really been wanting to get that Fedor action by HOS (I think), but its like $350. That's a lot for an action figure. My favorite...I dont know, probably the WEC belt! *laughs*
411: What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
411: Better haircut - Urijah Faber or Miguel Torres?
Brown: Urijah, although I think Miguel does pull off the "fashion mull" pretty well.
411: Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
Brown: A Maltease named Winter.
411: What is something about yourself you think would surprise MMA fans?
Brown: I own a pair of adult Healy shoes.
411: Can you see yourself in any other line of work than the one you're in? What job would you hate to have?
Brown: I've had lots of jobs I hated. The worst was being a mover, so I guess I would hate to do that again.
411: Thanks again for your time, Mike. Best of luck in your next fight and beyond!