Over the relatively short period of time that MMA has been in existence, it has, like any sport, had its fair share of underachievers and overachievers.

The difference between these two categories of people is often only really seen during their daily training sessions. As the old saying goes, “champions are made, not born.” That sentiment is particularly true of any elite mixed martial artist. This is perhaps even more so than in any other sport given the variety and dedication required to train every day and never become satisfied with one’s skill set.

MMA is wrought with fighters who many would characterize as perennial underachievers. You have the likes of Roy Nelson, who has never made the dietary sacrifices needed to break through into the very top of the game, or B.J. Penn, who despite all his remarkable achievements still has question marks surrounding his dedication to the sport.

On the flip side, you have the overachievers who have really pushed through despite not having the gifts and talents of others around them. The likes of Rich Franklin, Forrest Griffin and even the great Randy Couture could arguably fall into this category. All of these men rose to the top despite not being considered the best at any one discipline of martial arts. They have shown the grit and determination to hone their craft to the extent that the more gifted on the roster couldn’t overcome them on natural ability alone.

Another man who could be placed in this illustrious category is Mike Brown. Brown is a man who rose to the top of his division somewhat against the odds and upset a highly favored champion in the process.

Like so many others in MMA, Brown started his competitive life on the wrestling mat during high school, winning a state championship in 1992. This led him to Norwich University, where he continued to wrestle.

Once his initial foray into the world of competitive sport had reached its natural conclusion, we saw him enter the world of MMA at a time when the sport was not nearly as mainstream as it is today. By today’s standards, 25 years old is a late age with which to begin one’s MMA career, but that is exactly what Brown did in 2001, winning his first two fights before losing to Hermes Franca, who was just starting out on his own journey to the top.

Brown’s reaction to this loss would seemingly mirror countless other well-known champions and that loss would eventually lead to good things further down the road. Brown rebounded with a seven-fight winning streak that resulted in a call up to the big show, where he fought as a lightweight against Genki Sudo at UFC 47. Brown lost that fight by way of submission, but it wouldn’t be his last foray in a major promotion.

In the early days of his career, Brown appeared for a great many different promotions in all types of locations, from Massachusetts to Tokyo. All of these experiences—and a 9-2 mark in the 11 fights following his loss to Sudo—ultimately led him to the WEC, which at the time was an organization led from the front by poster boy Urijah Faber. It is perhaps notable that the opportunity afforded to him within the WEC was the first chance for Brown to consistently fight at featherweight.

For many fighters entering a new organization, a “tune-up” fight of sorts could be expected in order for the fighter to get comfortable with their new surroundings. This was certainly not the case for Brown, who drew the tough task of facing Jeff Curran in his WEC debut. Although this may not have been the easiest debut fight, the prize for getting past Curran was a title fight against the much-heralded Faber, who at the time was unbeaten in over three years and 13 fights.

In the build up to the fight with Faber, you would have been hard-pressed to find many fans or pundits picking Brown, given Faber’s prior record. However, with just over two minutes gone in the first round, Brown secured the TKO finish and captured the WEC featherweight championship.

In the years that have followed that fight at WEC 36, we have seen Brown defend the title twice before losing to the unstoppable force that is Jose Aldo. On the back of losing the title to Aldo, some may have thought Brown’s run had come to an end and he might fade away. Brown himself may have thought that his chance at the big time had gone, but before long he found himself back inside the Octagon thanks to the WEC merging into the UFC.

During his second stint with the UFC, Brown fared little better than his initial foray in 2004. His loss to Steven Siler in August 2013, moving his career UFC record to 2-4, which on paper at least would perhaps ordinarily warrant walking papers.

Highlights

Best Performance: Unanimous Decision victory over Faber at WEC 41

Breakthrough Fight: Unanimous Decision over Curran at WEC 34

Legacy: Brown will forever be remembered as the man to dethrone Faber before going on to cement his place as the worthy champion in the rematch. It is perhaps notable that Faber has never been able to capture a world title since running into Brown on Nov. 5, 2008.

What the future holds

As we find ourselves in 2014, Brown has seemingly admitted that his time at the pinnacle of the sport has come to an end, despite not wanting to use the word “retire” because of the finality of it all. Brown now looks set to devote himself to coaching at the famed American Top Team, and whilst we might not see Brown step foot in the Octagon again as a fighter, his influence can still be seen in the performances of ATT products Justin Scoggins, Yoel Romero, Robbie Lawler and countless others.

About The Author

Greg Byron
Staff Writer
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Greg Byron started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his brother introduced him to a local MMA fighter/coach when he was just 16 years old. Greg has trained for nearly a decade in both BJJ and MMA, competing in several grappling events within the UK. In addition to MMA, Greg possesses a law degree and works for a firm in northern part of England.