During his shocking rise to the top of the featherweight division, Mike Thomas Brown went undefeated in 2006, 2007, 2008 and nearly all of 2009. But the past 13 months have brought much adversity. The former world champion has posted just a 2-3 record, causing many to wonder if his best days in the Octagon might be behind him.
One of the nicest guys in the business, Brown said he hasn’t been able to pinpoint a culprit for his recent funk.
“Each loss is different so it’s tough to say,” the 10-year veteran said. “Jose Aldo just was a better fighter that kind of picked me apart. I think Manny (Gamburyan) just caught me on the chin; you know, I believe I’m a better fighter than him. But that’s how fighting goes. My fight against Diego Nunes I had an adrenaline dump and fatigued myself early and lost a decision. They are all dramatically different losses so I can’t put my finger on one thing, you know?”
While some have speculated that perhaps problems outside of the cage might have factored into Brown’s slide, the 35-year-old discounted such talk.
“No, man, some of my biggest wins have come off rollercoaster rides in my life, so I never buy into that,” he said.
Fighting against Nunes on New Year’s Day, Brown (24-7) uncharacteristically seemed to tire by the second round. He theorized that perhaps he peaked too early in training camp and was guilty of overtraining. He also squeezed a lot more than usual trying to take Nunes down and hold him on the mat. Or maybe it was the nerves and adrenaline dump because of competing for the first time in six years in the UFC, the sport’s biggest stage.
“I don’t know what it was, if I knew then it wouldn’t have happened,” Brown said. “I have a little bit of UFC jitters just because I really wanted to get that UFC win under my belt.”
Hungry to regain his championship form, Brown is headed to the Octagon for the second time in three weeks against Rani Yahya on Jan. 22 at UFC Fight For the Troops 2 in Fort Hood, Tex. Yahya, 15-6, is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who won the prestigious Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championship in 2007. He is also a tap out machine: 14 of his wins have come via submission.
“I like the matchup,” Brown said. “He’s the best jiu-jitsu guy in the world in this weight class, hands down. But I train at American Top Team with a lot of high-level jiu-jitsu guys so that’s the look I get most often in the gym, and I’m comfortable with it. I mean, anything can happen because he is the Abu Dhabi world champion, but I’m very confident in the matchup.”
Yahya is a dangerous fighter who nevertheless dropped his past two bouts to world-ranked bantamweights Joseph Benavidez and Takeya Mizugaki. Part of the problem, in Yahya’s mind, centered around being drained of his energy due to cutting too much weight. Yahya, who hasn’t fought in nine months, decided to return to featherweight and said he used his time away to heal injuries and advance his “technical evolution.” The 26-year-old Brazilian will be making his UFC debut and was originally scheduled to fight “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, before the Korean stepped aside due to injury.
“This is the best moment for me as a fighter, but mentally I will deal with it like every other fight,” Yahya said. “This weight class is where I have had my best performances. I am happy with the switch because Mike Brown has a bigger name. He seems to have good techniques and good physical condition but there is nothing impressive.”
Yahya predicted victory on Saturday, and Brown did the same.
“I’m going to knock him out,” Brown said. “I’ve got another run in me, man. I’m going to do it again. In the gym I’m still a monster. I know it, my teammates know it. I’m not an easy fight for anybody. I feel confident that I can beat anybody on any given night … Life is good. Sometimes I get depressed after every loss, they all hurt, but I’m fortunate enough to have been the top guy in the world for a little over a year and I’m OK with that. I’m going to get it back. I’m chasing after the belt and I still have that capability.”
Undaunted Brown Eyes Another Title Run
“I’ve got another run in me, man. I’m going to do it again. In the gym I’m still a monster. I know it, my teammates know it. I’m not an easy fight for anybody."