PITTSBURGH -- Talk about your crazy weeks.
Charlie Brenneman was officially orphaned from tonight’s card after arriving in Pittsburgh on Tuesday when his original opponent -- TJ Grant -- had to pull out of their scheduled prelim bout with an injury. So, he spent this week still trying to make weight in order to collect his purse money for showing, clinging to a tightly held hope that the fluky nature of things would even out and he’d get the call on a welterweight-saturated card to fight anyway.
And guess what? The pendulum swung, and the flukes evened out. Welterweight debutante Nate Marquardt wasn’t cleared by the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission to fight in the headlining spot against Rick Story, and the call went to the man waiting in the wings.
Re-enter, the “Spaniard.”
“This week has been an emotional circus,” he told ESPN.com shortly after weigh-ins. “High to high, low to low. When Grant pulled out when I got here, I was completely devastated, depressed, everything. There are so many factors that why I felt horrible. And then hearing that there might be a chance, I thought, well there might, but I really didn’t have any faith in it. Now it came through and it’s like a dream come true.”
Brenneman will now fight on tonight’s nationally televised co-main event on Versus against one of the UFC’s most dogged fighters in Story, who is on a torrid six-fight winning streak in the promotion. The caliber of opponent has changed pretty drastically, and with only 24 hours for a cram session on Story’s propensities, Brenneman was relieved, excited, honored and -- perhaps most tellingly of his time at AMA Fight Club with Jim Miller -- even keeled.
“It’s not really going to be a crash course,” he said. “I’ve watched [Story’s] fights a lot, and I’m a fan of the sport. I like his style. I’ve seen probably four of his six fights. I have my game plan. My teammate Jim Miller has the attitude that a fight’s a fight, and I’m going to do my thing. And I have that attitude, and that’s what I’m taking in to the cage.”
It helps that the pressure on the bout belongs to Story alone. Story had jumped in to face Nate Marquardt on only a month’s notice when original opponent Anthony Johnson went down with an injury. In his build towards a title shot, Marquardt was to be a springboard for Story to make his case. With the mysterious events surrounding Marquardt and his sudden firing from the UFC, now he’s fighting a relatively unknown Brenneman, who’s most impressive win to date was against Amilcar Alves in January.
In other words, Brenneman stands everything to gain from a victory, and Story everything to lose in defeat. And if there’s a certainty going in to this makeshift bout, it’s that Story’s knowledge of Brenneman is probably less than the other way around.
Yet with only a day to acquaint themselves with each other, you can throw all that out the window. Story’s ready to fight, so is Brenneman, and that’s where things are. It’s been a crazy trip to Pittsburgh for everyone -- with the fight cancellation and President Obama having stayed at the hotel and rampant “furries” running around the Steel City -- and at this point Brenneman is hoping it’s all not a crazy hallucination.
“It’s an unbelievable chance,” he said. “I just joked that I’m going to wake up with cotton mouth and it’s Saturday morning. But this is a fast track to the big time, and I’m in this business to get into the big time.
“I guarantee when the fight starts, Story’s going to come running across the ring and I’m going to come running across the ring. I saw what he did to Dustin Hazelett with Hazelett backing up to the cage. I’m going to put it right back in his face. It’s going to be a p---ing contest. It’s going to be a dogfight.”
And you half-expect it to be as surreal as the week leading up to it.