While most people were rooting for Court McGee at the Ultimate Fighter Finale on June 19 because of his compelling back-story, there was at least one fighter who could fully empathize with McGee’s rise from the ashes reinvention. That was “The Immortal” Matt Brown from TUF 7, who, like McGee, battled substance problems and an eventual heroin overdose before making a name for himself in the realm of mixed martial arts. Brown’s cheating of death earned him the nickname “The Immortal,” and he was happy to see “The Crusher”—whom he actually met at the tryouts for TUF 7—realize his moment of triumph.
“It’s great man, it’s an amazing thing, and it’s cool that Court won the show, too,” Brown says. “I wasn’t able to win it, but he did. I’ve done well and done okay, too, but—it’s a good thing and it’s inspiring to anybody. It goes to show you can do whatever you want in your life.”
Brown is an authority on the issue of overcoming hard knocks. Though he came from a troubled past growing up in Ohio, these days that’s all a distant memory that he’d assume not dredge up. As an internally focused sort—who is also terse in general—he is happy to let somebody else take the spotlight and inspire the world with that particular story. Brown is focused on one thing—going about his business of climbing the contendership ranks at 170.
“I’m just a little bit different than [Court] because I don’t really like talking about it a lot,” he says. “It’s part of my past, and I don’t really let things out so much. I don’t want to be that guy, you know? I don’t mind inspiring people or whatever, if that happens, but I don’t want people to look at me and say ‘wow, he overcame this or that.’ I’d rather them look at me and say ‘he’s a great fighter.’”
He’s well on his way. The tough-nosed welterweight who initially carved out a name for himself in the sport on guts and tenacity has added to his skill set over the years, at first with Rich Franklin and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist Jorge Gurgel in Ohio, and nowadays with Mark Beecher, as well as Matt Hume at AMC in Seattle. He has scored Octagon wins against James Wilks, Pete Sell and Ryan Thomas in the past year-and-a-half, before falling in his most recent bout to Ricardo Almeida this past March at UFC 111.
For the latter fight, Brown says he felt ready for the challenge and prepared to gauge himself against a vet like Almeida . . . but, come fight night, he simply didn’t execute.
“I said before my fight with him, this is the worst possible match-up for me,” he says of taking on the third degree BJJ black belt. “That’s why I wanted the fight. I was most confident that I was over that hump—that he wasn’t the worst match-up for me any longer. With respect to him, I think any lesser man I would have beat that night. I didn’t execute.
“That’s the one thing about fighting—we train for months and months, and it don’t mean anything if you don’t execute in those 15 minutes.”
Next up on the docket for Brown is what promises to be a head-on collision with Chris “Lights Out” Lytle (38-17-4), whom he fought just prior to his stint on TUF 7. In the first meeting back in 2007, in Lytle’s hometown of Indianapolis for the UFL, Brown stepped in with only a couple of weeks notice as a replacement and was surprised by what transpired.
“It was a good fight, man, but he really shocked me when he took me down a couple of times,” he remembers. “He was trying to take me down most of the fight, and finally accomplished it late in the first round, and then I made a mistake and he ended up on top. Coming into the fight on short notice, I was of the mentality that it was basically going to be a kickboxing match. I didn’t even train my ground game at all. I’d seen enough Chris Lytle fights where I thought we’re going to stand here and try and knock each other out.”
This time, Brown (11-8) is training everything and won’t be caught by the element of surprise. So, given the first fight’s outcome and the context of both of their recent history, what does he expect in his rematch with Lytle at UFC 116 on July 3 in Las Vegas?
Essentially a stand-up war where each man is trying to knock each other out — the kind of scrap that would have to be considered a forerunner for Fight of the Night.
“This time I have a full training camp, so I’ll be prepared for whatever comes,” he says. “And I can see where people are coming from with the fight of the night stuff. There’s no question that if I was looking at it from the outside that I would say it’s got Fight of the Night written all over it. But I plan on it being Knockout of the Night—I don’t see it being Fight of the Night at all. I’m going to knock him out. I don’t think either of us is going to be happy with this fight going to a decision. We’re coming, we’re out for blood. We’re coming to hurt each other.”
As Brown prepares for that confrontation, the 29-year-old has yet another new wrinkle in his second life, one that’ll change it for good. He is going to be a father in October—the father of twin boys. Thinking about exactly what that means, there are traces of excitement, fright, and the strange unfathomable feelings that come with unchartered territory.
Just like everything else, Brown meets his latest challenge eagerly.
“I’m absolutely excited,” he says. “I don’t think I could have chosen a better time if I’d planned it out. I look at it two different ways. For one, it’s kind of a peak in my career, that span between 25-35 years old. Those are the best years of your career and it’s kind of tough to have a kid. But, on the other hand, if I was doing any other career in the world, 30 years old is a good time to have a kid. So it works out.”
Yes it does. Things seem to have a way of doing that for “The Immortal” Matt Brown.