For more than a decade, fans who love a good fight have circled the dates on the calendar whenever Matt Brown has been scheduled to compete. He’s one of those guys who rarely disappoints.
He gets to the center of the cage when the bell rings and gets going. There is no feeling out process when Brown is fighting.
It’s why his bout Saturday (3 p.m. ET, ABC) against Carlos Condit on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi is so highly anticipated. He and Condit have similar approaches and their bout is not to be missed.
Despite the way he battles, though, Brown understands the risks involved in what he’s doing. Fighters leave a bit of themselves in the cage each time, sometimes a bit more than others.
He’s already begun to coach and told Yahoo Sports that as an MMA coach, protecting his fighters would be his top priority. And while that may entail throwing in the towel during a fight, it goes well beyond that, he said.
“We train five, six, sometimes seven days a week for 300-odd days a year versus fighting a couple of times a year,” Brown said. “It all has to start in training. You get those blunt resonations in training over and over, those shots that resonate the brain. A coach can’t be afraid, particularly in the training process, to step in and say, ‘That’s enough.’ Really, that’s where a lot of the problems begin.”
Brown referenced a profile of ex-UFC fighter Spencer Fisher on MMA Fighting. The story detailed Fisher’s rough post-fighting life, in which a neurologist declared him permanently disabled and unable to work. He has memory issues and often can’t remember the names of his children.
It is a topic most fighters avoid, but one they’re all very much aware of, Brown said.
“You read that Spencer Fisher article and it’s tough,” Brown said. “A lot of people need to know about things like that. As a fighter, we don’t like to think of those things. They’re not good to be in a fighter’s head as he’s getting ready to fight. Why would you do it if you thought that would happen to you?
“But as coaches, they need to be aware of it all the time. A coach has that responsibility and needs to understand what is going on in there so he can act when necessary.”
Brown said that when his fighting days are through, he wants to take classes on head trauma so he recognizes the signs of concussions and can act accordingly.
The area of the fight game that has puzzled regulators and promoters both is how to regulate what happens in the gyms around the world. Athletic commissions cannot allow obvious mismatches and have trained referees in the cage to stop bouts that become one-sided.
But there is no one who controls what happens in the gyms other than the gym owner and the coach.
Brown isn’t advocating for a second stopping a fight the first time a competitor takes a good shot. Far from it. He thinks there is a balance that needs to be struck.
“I have had fights I felt were stopped too soon,” Brown said. “Both of the times I was TKO’d, I felt they were early stoppages and I could have gone on. I don’t like it when referees stop fights early.
“But let’s be honest: There comes a point of diminishing returns in a fight. And if you are in this business, you need to recognize it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The fighters need to be protected. There’s a fine line there. I recognize the vulnerabilities and the potential outcomes, but you never want a fight stopped too soon. You need someone who understands this to be watching carefully.”
There will be many people watching carefully on Saturday when Brown takes on Condit, a legendary figure in the sport who has suddenly run on hard times. His unanimous decision over Court McGee on Oct. 4 snapped a five-bout losing streak, but Condit is still just 3-8 over the last seven-plus years.
Brown, though, said it’s a fight he’s long sought, and which was booked twice, and then scrapped, because of injuries. A win would be the most significant of his career, Brown said.
“I’ve looked up to him for a long time, even before he was in the UFC when he was in the WEC and just killing it,” Brown said. “I love the way he fights. I love his style and everything about the way he does his things.”
Brown, who was off for a year because of an ACL surgery, said he is optimistic he can win.
He said Condit’s approach changes fight to fight, but he said he feels prepared for the best Condit can bring.
“I respect him so much that I want to give him my best,” Brown said. “I have honestly had a great camp. Everything went as well as I could have hoped and I am excited to show all of the things I have worked on.”
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