UFC’s belief in welterweight Matt Brown paying off

Kevin Iole

Patience is often in notoriously short supply among sports fans. Fans are often frustrated when their favorite team fails to sign every big-name free agent.

The backup quarterback is often the most popular guy in town. The hotshot in Triple-A is worshipped and wished for until he gets to the majors and strikes out a couple of times.

A fighter loses a couple in a row and fans and media begin wondering how long it is before he loses his job.

For the athletes, it's a part of the business.

History has repeatedly shown, however, that patience is often one of the most rewarded attributes. Not giving up on a talented young athlete after a rough patch often pays major dividends.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the case of UFC welterweight Matt Brown.

Johny Hendricks, left, and Matt Brown fight Saturday night at UFC 185. (Getty)

These days, Brown is clearly one of the best in the world, an impressive win, perhaps, away from a shot at the welterweight title.

If he defeats former champion Johny Hendricks on Saturday in Dallas at UFC 185, he'll have as good of an argument as anyone in the class for a shot at the winner of the upcoming championship match between Robbie Lawler and No. 1 contender Rory MacDonald.

But to understand how far Brown has come, journey back just a little more than four years. Brown was choked out in the second round by Brian Foster at UFC 123 on Nov. 10, 2010. It was his third consecutive defeat, leaving him at 11-10 overall for his MMA career.

Brown could have been dropped and no one would have noticed, much less cared. No doubt, his name was on the many "cut lists" that are so popular across the internet.

But the UFC chose not to cut Brown at that point. And while that may have been perplexing to some, it clearly turned out to be the right call.

He needed time to develop and work on his game. And after going 1-1 in his next two fights, defeating John Howard and getting choked out again, this time by Seth Baczynski, he suddenly turned things around.

Brown won seven fights in a row, finishing six of them. Even though his streak was broken by a loss to Lawler at UFC on Fox last July, it was the Fight of the Night, the third time in his last four fights he was so honored.

The patience of UFC matchmaker Joe Silva was rewarded by choosing to keep Brown on the roster despite his struggles, but Brown said he never concerns himself with public perception.

"I'm really pretty indifferent to what people might say or think," Brown said. "It's irrelevant to me. I don't think about things like that. I know who I am and I know where I'm at, and where I've come from. It's all about whether I believe, anyway, not whether somebody else believes."

So Brown heads into a bout against Hendricks in the former champ's hometown, with a possible title shot in his future.

He faces a great challenge against Hendricks, who enters the bout with much at stake and itching to prove he's not the lethargic guy he appeared to be when he lost the title to Lawler at UFC 181 in December.

Hendricks has changed his conditioning and said he expects to be in the kind of shape he wasn't in when making that first title defense.

Matt Brown attacks during his loss to Robbie Lawler. (Getty)

One of those who believes in Brown is UFC president Dana White, who said that while he expects Hendricks to come out in better condition, it's no guarantee of a win.

"Matt Brown, man, that dude is nasty, man," White said. "He's a bad dude."

Brown said he'll enter the bout with a clear head despite a falling out with his jiu-jitsu coach, Rodrigo Botti, that became physical and resulted in Botti calling the police.

Brown declined to talk at length about the incident, but denied Botti's version of events that included Brown attacking him unprovoked.

The split, Brown said, was a long time in the making and not only hasn't been a distraction but has made things better.

"One way or another, he was going to be put to the side," Brown said. "It just turned out to be in an unpleasant manner. [It happened] definitely more for personality reasons. It was conflicting personalities. His jiu-jitsu is amazing; I'll give that to him.

"His personality is just horrible. I don't want to get into personal attacks on him, but I could find a lot of things to tell you if that's what I was here to do. He wouldn't get along with the other guys in the corner and always wanted to be the No. 1 guy and eventually, it came to a head."

Brown is now excited about the opportunity to not only put himself back into the title picture, but to face an elite opponent like Hendricks.

Both lost to Lawler in their last outings and both come in with a lot to prove.

"I don't expect to see him lethargic or however you want to describe that way he was [in the rematch with Lawler] again," Brown said. "He's, no question about it, one of the best guys in the division, one of the best guys in the world. That's who I am expecting to see.

"Technically, I don't think he's as good as I am. I believe I'll be more technical in all the positions. His strengths are his strength and his wrestling obviously. He's technical there, for sure, but I don't think he has the technical ability I have and if I can impose that upon him, then I'm going to win."

Either way, it figures to be a great fight. In addition to his three Fight of the Night honors in his last four bouts, Brown has also had a Knockout of the Night and a Performance of the Night.

Hendricks was in three consecutive Fights of the Night until he lost the belt to Lawler. And in his last nine bouts, Hendricks also has three Knockouts of the Night.

That's got Brown excited and ready to put on a show.

"These are the kind of fights you want and the type of situation you want to be in," Brown said. "It's a big fight against a great opponent. To me, nothing could be better."

Without patience when he was at his career nadir in 2010, though, it might never have occurred.

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