UFC welterweight Matt Brown (16-11) has led an interesting life. He fought through adversity and overcame drug addiction to earn his spot on "The Ultimate Fighter 7," and he's been working his way up the ladder ever since.
However, despite overcoming his personal trials, Brown has struggled to reach the top of the welterweight division. In 2009, he was building momentum and beginning to enter the title picture when he lost his UFC 111 bout against Ricardo Almeida. Brown then dropped his next two fights, which put him in line to lose his job.
He was able to keep his place in the company with his solid victory over John Howard in June 2011, but then his upset loss to Seth Baczynski at UFC 139 forced him to rethink what he wanted to do with his career.
"Going into my fight with Baczynski, I felt really good," Brown said. "I felt good in the cage; I performed well in the first round. It was a pretty even round, but I was feeling my rhythm coming on and starting to feel the fight. I just made one little mistake and couldn't get out of it. I ended up getting submitted. That was probably the toughest moment just because it just -- I felt like I should have won the fight. I could have won the fight."
"I'm not even a superstitious person; I don't believe in that 'everything happens for a reason' kinda stuff," Brown continued. "But I was questioning if it was my fate, if I was destined to not be in the UFC and not be successful in winning consecutive fights. I had a lot of questions going on in my mind. I had some heart-to-heart conversations with my friends and family. It didn't last too long; I picked myself up and got back up on the horse. But going through that makes you stronger. I know what that feels like to be at the lowest point and feel like hope is lost. I understand that feeling and that definitely motivates me to not end up feeling that again."
Brown came back from the loss to Baczynski to win his next four bouts, including his rather surprising knockout of Mike Swick last December. Up until that point, Brown seemed to struggle against opponents who were ranked higher than him, but that changed against Swick.
"I feel like I've always fought ahead of my level," Brown said. "I've always fought whoever is out there, and every time I've fought someone at the next level, I've either lost or something bad [has happened]. I always knew that I could be there because I was losing over stupid little things."
"I looked at that fight [against Swick], and he's been in the top 10 and been on the big show, and I saw it as a step into the next level," Brown continued. "I wouldn't say that there was a light bulb that went off or anything, it's just working as hard as I can and staying consistent. I'm a firm believer that when you work hard for things, good things will eventually come. If you relax and don't work hard at something, it's going to fall apart."
In the end, it always comes down to hard work with Brown. Every time he's won or lost, Brown has gone right back to the gym and put in the work needed to become a better fighter. He doesn't do it for the money or the glory; he does it to challenge himself. Brown thrives on being tested by the best fighters out there.
"If I had a choice, I'd fight everybody," Brown said. "I'm in this sport to test myself, and there's no other way to do it but by fighting everybody. One of the big reasons that I love this sport is that you find out about yourself. That's what this sport's truly about, the authenticity of this sport, the truth of this sport. It's not about hurting people or being on TV or the fame. It goes a lot deeper than that."
Brown has also found a way to expand MMA into his home life. He thrives on the challenges that the sport brings, but he also uses it a tool to help raise his children. Brown's success in MMA is meant to teach them some important life lessons.
"The way I look at MMA now is that I really don't have to do anything," Brown said. "I don't have to win the fight. That's not what self-worth is based on; it's not what makes me a better or worse person. That's something I've learned over time. Now, I look at it more like I want to inspire my kids, show them what you can do with hard work, and the things that you can achieve in life when you put your mind to it. I think changing my mentality to that has made a difference in the way that I approach everything and the way my fights have been turning out."
Brown's hard work as paid off for the 32-year-old veteran. He's coming off the biggest victory of his career, and he has an opportunity to move one step closer to a title shot with a win over rising welterweight Jordan Mein (27-8) this Saturday, April 20 at UFC on FOX 7. Throughout all of his wins and losses, hard work has been the key to Brown's career.
Now it might just take him to the top of his weight class.
Derek Ciapala has been following MMA for 20 years. He has been published on Yahoo! Sports, UltimateApocalypse.com and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or on Twitter @dciapala.
Source: Personal Interview
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