Amidst a hurricane of controversy and uncertainty, the UFC’s No. 8 welterweight fighter, Matt Brown, has been relatively quiet after the outrage from comments he made with regard to female MMA fighters on his podcast, “Legit Man Shit.” Of course, that hasn’t kept him from continuing on with his recovery, his life or his commitments to the UFC.

Brown will be part of a trip consisting of UFC stars and MMA personalities that will visit the troops currently deployed to Afghanistan this month, spending nearly two weeks in the war-torn country. In addition to Brown, the participants will include Tom Lawler, Kyle Kingsbury, Tapout’s Punkass and Skyscrape, as well as Kurt Shrout, who set the whole thing up.

“He just hit me up and said, ‘Hey, do you want to go?’ So I said okay,” Brown told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “We went over to Japan for the last tour, so it made sense I guess.”

Aside from his departure and return dates, though, Brown isn’t sure exactly where they will be in Afghanistan or what they will be doing.

“When we did Japan, we did some seminar type stuff, some meet-and-greet type stuff, some grappling and rolling with some guys, which I won’t really be able to do because of my injury,” said Brown, who is still recovering from herniated disks in his L-4 and L5 vertebrae suffered during his camp late last year. “In Japan, we just kind of played it by ear depending on who was there and what they were interested in.”

As for his injury, the prognosis is promising.

“Going really good. Doctors are happy with where I’m at,” he revealed. “They said things are going really smooth, really well. I just gotta keep doing what I’m doing. Keep grinding.”

Brown was able to avoid surgery, so instead it has been a non-stop regimen of physical therapy. It is paying off, too. He was recently cleared to start gradually increasing the intensity of his training.

With his body on the mend, Brown thinks by mid-February he’ll probably be able to resume training fully. This would mean a return to action as soon as May if Brown has his way, with June being the latest he predicts he would want to wait. Of course, there is no word on a possible opponent and Brown has yet to speak to the UFC’s matchmakers about it.

“I just want to make sure everything goes smooth first, and go to this Afghanistan trip,” he said. “Actually, that will tell me a lot about where my back is, sitting on these long flights.”

Just as the UFC isn’t offering up any potential victims for “The Immortal’s” return, Brown also is not trying to chase anyone down and when pressed on who he would like to fight, he merely says, “No one in particular.” However, like any top-10 fighter, Brown has gold on his mind.

“I’d like to fight for the title,” he admitted. “That would be ideal. Always is though, right?”

With Georges St-Pierre stepping back from the sport and the inauguration of a new champion on the horizon, Brown is not phased by all the hype, nor is he bitter knowing that he may not be able to face the welterweight kingpin.

“It doesn’t make really any difference to me,” Brown confessed. “I was ready to fight him or whoever has the belt after him. It’s whatever.”

Like many in the top 10, Brown considers himself the rightful contender for the vacant strap. Although some may think other fighters such as Carlos Condit are equally or more deserving of the shot, Brown’s claims are not unwarranted. As the only active fighter in the division on a six-fight winning streak inside the Octagon—five by way of knockout or TKO—it’s easy to understand why he says Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler would “not have been my choice.” In Brown’s eyes, the choice is obvious. As a competitor, though, he does respect the UFC’s decision.

“Both of them are worthy title holders, and they’re both good enough to be the No. 1 guy,” he said. “I think it wouldn’t be undeserving of me to be there, but it is what it is.”

GSP may be the highest-profile fighter to walk away while at the top of his game, but fellow top-10 welterweight Martin Kampmann also recently stated he would be taking time off as well. Although Kampmann was on a two-fight skid and not at the peak of his game, it does leave a noticeable gap in the division, especially with the departure of the champion as well.

“It doesn’t make a difference to me,” Brown said of St-Pierre and Kampmann stepping away from the Octagon. “I understand these guys want to take hiatuses. It’s such a stressful sport. It can be very taxing on the body and the mind. It makes perfect sense. I think we all have those feelings at some point or another.”

As someone who has had 16 fights in the UFC over a career which has spanned over five years thus far, Brown, too, has contemplated the idea of retiring or taking a break.

“I definitely feel both ways,” he said. “I’m getting close to my goals and my dreams, so I don’t want to slow that train down. At the same time, there are definitely times—mainly when I’m away from my family—I just want to spend time with my family for a while and just say, ‘Fuck all this.’ Cause that’s really what’s the most meaningful, even more so than my dreams and my goals, is the family.

“If I was a single man, it would probably be different. There’s so many times, even like right now, when I’m injured, not even able to train, definitely not able to book a fight, but I’m still going to be spending time away from my family. On top of that, you have that constant grind, the weight on your shoulders, the stress. We don’t really have job security. In some sense you do, and in another sense you don’t.

“It’s always a high-stress situation. Of course, you’re fighting a guy who’s [also] been training for the last eight or 12 weeks to beat your ass in front of millions of people. It is a high-stress job. It is a high-stress situation.”

Aside from the stress of training, there comes with it the added burden of celebrity.

“I feel like some of us probably want to step back for a minute and just be normal people. Not always have people doing interviews, all these people always asking questions, and looking up to you and praising you,” he said. “Sometimes I just want to sit back and be that normal guy that’s just a father and a husband, you know what I mean?

“I totally get where everybody’s coming from when they have these thoughts [of taking a hiatus]. At the same time, you also have to understand you’re going to have that feeling no matter what job you’re doing or no matter what you’re doing in life, unless you hit the lottery or something. So, I still try to look at it as I’m still blessed to be here and I shouldn’t take it for granted.”

Even with his hopes for a title uncertain and dependent on many factors, such as his injury, matchmaking and the outcome of upcoming bouts, Brown knows that he wouldn’t want to be doing anything else in the world.

“We definitely have first-world problems,” he pointed out. “Not only that, but most of us at this point in our careers, we’re not living the starving-artist lifestyle. We’re not struggling, we’re doing alright. We just kind of take it for granted, I think.”

Brown is also going to take time to appreciate what he does have in life instead of stressing out about what he’s missing during his trip this week.

“I like going on these military tours,” he revealed. “I get to see things from a completely different perspective, a different life.”

He’s also hopeful that some time out of the country and away from the 24-hour MMA news cycle will give him a much-needed respite from the fallout of his recent blunder. When pressed about the issue, he simply would state, “No comment.” Not wanting to talk about it further is understandable, since talking is what got him in trouble in the first place.

Despite the backlash, Brown is not going to let it get him down or change who he is or how he lives his life. If nothing else, this was a lesson in how he has more celebrity status than he previously thought. Instead of using it to gain greater fame, fortune or notoriety, he’s going to use it to give back to those who give the most.

“All these men and women are over there for six months to a year at a time, leaving their families, putting their lives on the line, getting crappy meals all day in the freezing cold and the burning hot. Then we sit here and complain about, ‘Oh man, my pizza is burnt!’ It’s kind of ridiculous how we just take for granted where we’re at. It’s trips like this that bring things into perspective.”