Matt Brown is the protagonist in an adventure tale that’s still being told. His is a story with so many highs and lows, so many ebbs and flows that he can describe for you the gutter (in sincere detail) while sketching a general idea of the penthouse (his very own silo, maybe).
The plot is a continuously rolling thing that boils down to the essence of all human drama -- just stay alive. Only his story intersects with the fight game.
Toward the end of 2011, Brown lost a fight to Seth Baczynski, his fourth loss in five UFC bouts. All of the losses were of the submission variety. For a guy who’d already overcome so much in life -- addiction, overdosing on heroin, losing his father, a stint on “The Ultimate Fighter 7” -- it looked as if Brown was perhaps mortal after all.
But you don’t get a nickname like “The Immortal” unless you are ruthlessly resilient. To the UFC’s credit, it did not cut the Ohio native Brown, a blue-collar scrapper in the welterweight division. Instead, it threw him in the Octagon with another TUF alum in Chris Cope, and that was the beginning of Brown’s latest resurrection. He’s won all three of his bouts this year heading into his Dec. 8 fight with a similarly resilient Mike Swick.
From life on the bubble to an inspirational tale is heartwarming stuff, right? Not if you’ve never been into tidy Hallmark sentiments.
“I don’t really think about it,” Brown told ESPN.com. “I’ve learned just [to] take it one fight at a time, to not worry about the past or the future, and just worry about what you’ve got to do today to be the best you can.”
A boring, staid statement like that in the hands of other men might test your immune system toward clichés.
But Brown is sincere. If you’ve listened to him talk at any point in his four years in the UFC, you know that he doesn’t get too high on the highs, nor too low on the lows. It truly is a “one foot in front of the other” proposition. He’s not eyeing the 170-pound belt, because he doesn’t do horizons. He doesn’t do animosity, trash talk or social media eavesdropping, either. In fact, between training with Robert Drysdale and Mark Meacher out in Las Vegas and his camp back in Ohio, he barely kept up with what was going on with the outside world.
For example, asked how it felt to hear the recently victorious John Hathaway calling out the winner of the match between him and Swick -- to be in a position where guys are trying to get to him, rather than the other way around -- Brown suppressed a yawn.
“I don’t care. I don’t pay attention to that stuff,” he says. Then it dawned on him, and he added: “I thought [Hathaway] and Matt Riddle had a little beef or something? I thought he was going to end up fighting Riddle.”
In other words, Dan Hardy (who had the beef with Riddle) and Hathaway are interchangeable to a guy who doesn’t put much thought into anything other than what’s in front of him. And right now that’s a nationally televised bout with Swick, who came back from a stomach ailment that sidelined him for 2½ years to knock out DaMarques Johnson in August.
“[Swick] presents a lot of challenges. He’s got fast hands, he’s an explosive guy,” Browns said. “He’s got a pretty solid punch that will hurt you pretty good. And he seems to have a good ground game. So yeah, all around, he’s pretty solid. He’ll give you a lot of problems on all aspects.”
Anybody who’s paid attention to Brown’s career knows that he’s technical, but he’s willing to brawl as well. He does brawl, because to him it’s never anything other than a fight. A Brown scrap is always a combination of technique, savagery, instinct and attrition. His in-cage gravitas makes it that much more intense.
Swick is much the same way.
What’s the hunch? That as they kick off the big UFC on FOX 5 card, you can’t help but think this one could be a showstopper. That, even though it is fourth billing to Nate Diaz versus Benson Henderson, Alexander Gustafsson versus Mauricio Rua and BJ Penn versus Rory MacDonald, that it could sneak off with some end-of-the-night bonus money.
You’d think that, but history suggests otherwise. For all of the careening in Brown’s career, there’s one thing he hasn’t accomplished in 13 fights -- he’s never been awarded an end-of-the-night bonus in anything. That’s almost hard to believe when you think about it, but it’s true.
“I always think I’ve got fight of the night,” he says. “Then I don’t get it.”
Maybe Saturday night, Brown uses this theme to begin a new chapter to his incomplete adventure tale.