In his past life, UFC fighter Charlie Brenneman was a high school Spanish teacher, guiding his students through verb conjugations and the gender of the language’s nouns.

Spanish is a passion for the 31-year-old, but it isn’t his only interest. After winning the first season of the television show Pros vs. Joes, Brenneman left teaching behind to pursue his dream of fighting in the UFC Octagon.

“It’s done a complete 180,” the welterweight told The MMA Corner. “I went from living in my hometown with a steady job to living in New Jersey with a not-so-steady job, where you’re fighting people on TV. So it’s about as big of a turn as you can take.”

For Brenneman, it might have been a huge transition, but it was worth it. At the same time, displaying the sound judgment one would expect from an educator, he made his decisions with great care. It was that balance that allowed him to realize his goals.

“The biggest thing, if there’s a passion or desire to do something, I think it’s important to try and do it,” Brenneman explained. “At the same time, I see a lot of people throw caution to the wind and jump head-first off a cliff and try to succeed. I did what I did, I quit my job, but I also had a plan. I got my Master’s degree; I had a fall-back plan and I did it step-by-step. So I think it’s important to follow that dream, but at the same time, I think it’s equally important to have a plan in doing so.”

The former Lock Haven University standout wrestler’s plans have paid off. Since signing with the UFC following a 5-0 run as an amateur and an 11-1 mark as a professional, Brenneman has notched four wins against only two defeats. His breakthrough performance came versus Rick Story at the June 2011 UFC Live: Kongo vs. Barry event.

Charlie Brenneman (Matthew Furman/furmanfoto.com)

However, each time the “Spaniard” has gained a head of steam in the Octagon, he has suffered a setback loss. First, it was a TKO at the hands of Johny Hendricks at UFC 117 in Brenneman’s sophomore appearance with the promotion. Then, following a two-fight winning streak capped by the unanimous decision victory over Story, Brenneman again met with defeat, this time via a head kick TKO against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson at UFC Live: Cruz vs. Johnson.

Brenneman has since rebounded with a win over Daniel Roberts at UFC on Fox 3, which brings him to the obstacle currently standing in his path to the top of the UFC’s 170-pound mountain: 27-year-old Team Nogueira fighter Erick Silva.

“You know he has a great record, great background,” Brenneman admitted. “There’s so much hype around him, and he’s really only been in the Octagon for a little over a minute. So there’s a lot to be seen, and I’m going to try to get in there and put the pressure on him and be in his face with my wrestling and see how he reacts to it.”

Silva’s Octagon tenure has indeed lasted just over a minute—69 seconds, to be exact—and that leaves one huge question mark in the former Jungle Fight welterweight champion’s game: his cardio. Brenneman’s wrestling ensures that he can handle a drawn-out battle, but how will his Brazilian counterpart respond if this fight extends into deep waters?

“It kind of remains to be seen,” Brenneman said. “We’ve never seen him—in the UFC—get pushed even late into the first round. I know that I’m prepared to go 15 minutes, and I could go 25 minutes if I had to. I’m really banking on pushing him to his limits and seeing how he reacts.”

Brenneman is fairly accustomed to lengthy campaigns inside the cage, having gone to the judges’ scorecards in exactly half of his 18 career outings. However, the sweetest outcome of a fight for any fighter is a finish.

“It would be awesome (to stop Silva), not only for me personally, but also to kind of put a statement on where I am in the welterweight division,” said Brenneman. “I think by finishing him that would put on that exclamation point.”

It won’t be easy putting his stamp on the welterweight division. The formerly self-trained fighter who now calls the AMA Fight Club home will have to be wary of numerous aspects of Silva’s game. The Brazilian is a black belt in judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, making a fight on the ground a risky proposition for Brenneman.

“I wouldn’t say I’m concerned,” said Brenneman, dismissing the idea that Silva’s mat skills would discourage him from shooting for takedowns. “I’m definitely aware of it, but am I concerned? Am I scared? Am I worried? No. I mean, I train with some great BJJ guys and I’m aware that he’s dangerous on the ground, but it won’t prevent me from taking it to the mat.”

Silva, who has trained with the likes of Anderson Silva and Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, also presents Brenneman with challenges in the stand-up department. Having a background in Muay Thai, Silva used strikes to dispatch of Luis Ramos at UFC 134 and would also have earned a TKO over Carlo Prater at UFC 142 had it not been for a disqualification handed to him for illegal strikes to the back of Prater’s head.

Charlie Brenneman (Matthew Furman/furmanfoto.com)

“(Silva)’s very lethal on his feet,” Brenneman admitted. “He’s got very good finishing power. The biggest thing (for me) is just going back to the basics—making sure my hands are up, making sure my head and my feet are constantly moving. Those are the biggest things that I need to pay attention to.”

Should Brenneman emerge victorious, the path remaining in front of him is crowded with top welterweights. As Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit both lay claim to UFC welterweight gold, Martin Kampmann and Johny Hendricks are nipping at their heels. But for Brenneman, it’s all about forward motion. He has nobody in particular in mind for a call-out, he just wants to face fighters who will get him to that next level.

Brenneman, who now holds two Master’s degrees, still has years ahead of him inside the Octagon. But for every fighter, there comes a day when it’s time to hang up the gloves forever. So, will the “Spaniard” return to his past life and the profession that earned him his nickname?

“I doubt it,” Brenneman confessed. “I’m hoping to make a living off the sport in some capacity. But, at the same time, Spanish is a passion of mine, so I’m hoping to find some way incorporate it into my professional life.”

Perhaps, when that time comes, there will be an opening in the UFC’s Spanish broadcast booth.

Charlie would like to thank all of his sponsors, which are listed at his website: charlie-brenneman.com. He would also like to thank his team and all of his fans. Follow him on Twitter: @SpaniardMMA

Top Photo: Charlie Brenneman (Matthew Furman/furmanfoto.com)

About The Author

The MMA Corner Staff

Your home for all things MMA. News, Interviews, Event Coverage, Editorials. If it is MMA related, you will find it on The MMA Corner.