Matt Brown did not understand what his UFC profession meant to folks — till it was over

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By Calvin S. Nelson

Matt Brown didn’t determine his retirement could be a really massive deal. That’s why he delay making any kind of public announcement. He’d already instructed the UFC, which appeared just like the necessary half. He supposed he ought to say one thing publicly, simply to get it on the market, however he didn’t anticipate a lot of a response.

“I used to be actually at my daughter’s soccer sport,” Brown instructed Yahoo Sports activities. “She had a doubleheader, and in between the 2 video games I used to be sitting there and thought, ‘oh yeah I have to make some Instagram put up about this.’ Apparently that’s what makes it official, not after I known as the UFC like a month earlier than that. So I discovered an image that seemed good for a retirement put up, and actually put no thought into it past that.”

Quickly he was sitting within the scorching solar, watching his daughter in sport two, when his telephone lit up. The buzzing, the notifications, the texts. One proper after one other till the telephone was on the verge of overheating in his hand.

“I suppose it was a bit of naive on my finish, however I used to be form of identical to, ‘rattling, folks really give a s***?’” Brown mentioned. “It truthfully made my eyes water a bit of bit.”

For fighters, retiring generally is a little like eavesdropping on their very own funerals. Out of the blue everybody has nothing however good issues to say. Your faults are forgiven and your triumphs are magnified. Individuals who as soon as appeared detached and even hostile understand they’re actually going to overlook you now that you just’re gone. With the story ended, everybody will get an opportunity to step again and have a look at it in its entirety.

Brown had a kind of UFC careers that may’t be simply defined with stats or achievements. His total professional document of 24-19 seems to be unremarkable on paper. He by no means gained or fought for a UFC title. Should you don’t observe this sport, his 15-year keep within the UFC in all probability appears solely notable for its longevity.

However MMA is a kind of sports activities the place it’s not simply in regards to the wins and losses. What Brown delivered to a UFC occasion was the close to assure of a sure form of combat. He was the archetype of the hard-nosed, hard-charging welterweight who fought like he was allergic to taking a backward step. He hit onerous and infrequently. Hitting him again solely appeared to make him mad.

Opponents all the time knew they had been in for a troublesome evening of labor once they accepted the combat, identical to followers all the time knew they wished to be of their seats when Brown walked to the cage. His was a profession constructed on blood and dedication. Seems folks seen and appreciated him for it.

Matt Brown, left, throws a punch at Robbie Lawler during the fifth round of a welterweight mixed martial arts bout at a UFC on Fox event in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, July 26, 2014. Lawler won by unanimous decision. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Matt Brown (24-19, 16 KOs) determined to hold up the gloves after a 19-year professional MMA profession. (AP Photograph/Jeff Chiu)

That was a pleasant shock for Brown, as was the UFC’s video package deal commemorating his time within the cage. The retirement choice was a slowly unfolding course of, Brown mentioned. He’s been much less lively as a fighter lately. His focus has regularly moved elsewhere as he’s gotten extra concerned in operating his fitness center and varied actual property tasks. He’d hoped to combat Jim Miller at UFC 300 and perhaps name it quits there, he mentioned. When the combat didn’t materialize, he felt a few of his ardour for the game drain away.

“That’s after I figured, I’ll simply retire,” Brown mentioned. “(The UFC) made me a suggestion quickly after that, however I simply didn’t really feel it. It didn’t really feel like a tough course of. My thoughts was form of already on the following steps in my life. It simply felt very pure, to be trustworthy.”

There are components of the fighter’s life he’ll miss, Brown admitted. The joy. The nerves. Even the concern, that feeling of residing proper on the razor’s edge.

“In all probability greater than something I’ll miss simply that feeling of being in combat mode,” Brown mentioned. “Six or eight or 10 weeks of simply sheer focus. You form of zone out of your complete world. You are not nervous in regards to the stress of life or enterprise or anything. I imply, you’ve received to handle your loved ones nonetheless, however they’re supporting you on that journey. It’s simply such a easy life, man. You’ve received one job, one focus.”

There are different components he gained’t miss, just like the uncertainty that’s constructed right into a fighter’s entire existence. You’re all the time both ready round to combat or else coaching for a combat that, with an damage to you or your opponent, may evaporate at any time. You make investments a lot money and time making ready, however the combat could possibly be yanked out from underneath you the day earlier than — even the day of — and there’s no assure you’ll see a single cent in cost.

When he seems to be again on his profession now, it’s not simply the highlight-reel wins that stand out. His combat in opposition to Robbie Lawler, an in depth bout the place he misplaced the choice that might have propelled him right into a UFC title combat with only a couple totally different numbers on a pair scorecards, that one stands out. Although he misplaced, Brown mentioned, it was the perfect he’d ever felt in a combat.

Then there was the one simply earlier than that, the place he beat Erick Silva in a wild brawl that packed an entire lot of residing into simply over 12 minutes of combat time. With information of Brown’s retirement, the highlights of that combat made the rounds of social media. However what he remembers now isn’t just his efficiency or the fun of the victory, however all of the folks round him.

“I had extra household at that combat than at my household reunion,” Brown mentioned. “My children had been there, and I used to be the primary occasion in order that they received to come back within the cage after and get photos and stuff. That made it actually particular.”

Possibly the most important shock for Brown, now that his profession is over, is the extent to which his relationship with followers ended up being a two-way avenue. Lots of them reached out through the years to inform him how impressed they had been by his journey from a near-fatal heroin overdose to a UFC profession. However as he engaged extra with followers on social media through the years, he discovered that they impressed him too.

“There have been days after I felt like I wanted some further motivation, and I knew I may go on my social media and there could be folks telling me good things, getting me motivated for the day,” Brown mentioned. “I do know plenty of fighters or athletes generally speak in regards to the negativity they expertise on-line. I didn’t actually encounter an excessive amount of of that. I’m cognizant of who I’m following and who I’m blocking, however I’ve had actually optimistic experiences simply connecting with folks on there.”

Standing there on the sidelines of the soccer sport that day, together with his telephone virtually melting from the messages of affection and assist that flooded in after he instructed the world he was completed with the preventing portion of his life, Brown received to see that his time within the cage really did imply one thing to the individuals who watched. It’s sufficient to make even a troublesome man get a bit of misty.

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