TJ Brown used to fight a certain way. Whether on the feet or the mat, the Arkansas native was like Tony Montana at the end of “Scarface.”
He was gonna get you, or you were gonna get him.
That earned him a ton of fans, 14 pro wins, and a submission of Dylan Lockard on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019 that also netted him a UFC contract. But there were also six losses, five of which ended before the final horn.
So when he entered the Octagon in 2020 and the level of competition was amped up, Brown faltered, losing a pair of bouts to Jordan Griffin and Danny Chavez. That led to some soul-searching, visits to the Glory MMA camp in Missouri to supplement his training, as well as to a sports psychologist, and a change in mindset. Sure, Brown could still get you out of there, but now he would do it as a sniper, not a bullet-spraying Tony Montana.
The result? Back-to-back wins over Kai Kamaka and Charles Rosa, and all of a sudden, Brown is a hot prospect again as he prepares to meet Shayilan Nuerdanbieke this Saturday in Las Vegas.
“I think I'm doing something right, wouldn't you think?” he laughs. “I'm trying to get a little bit of momentum going.”
He may already have it, and there are a lot more smiles these days because he knows that there aren’t any doubts anymore – whether internally or externally. TJ Brown is a UFC fighter.
“I'm finally getting that feeling that I belong,” he said. “With two consecutive wins, it's kinda like I checked that box off. You want to get to the UFC and then you want to prove yourself. And with two wins back-to-back like that, I'm here to stay now. And now that I've got my foot in the door, it's time to make a statement. My performances are getting better, I've been talking to that sports psychologist and that's something that I changed, as well, a couple fights ago and I'm really excited to build on this and show everybody really how good I am.”
Brown has always been good. That was evident when he was scrapping on the regional scene. So while the aforementioned changes in his life and mindset have been key, he also thinks his persistence isn’t something to be dismissed.
“Things I've been doing for years, and doing the right things, are finally coming out,” he said. “I think my consistency is finally playing a role. This game is like no other. Anything can happen by a flip of a coin, but I have to give some credit to the consistency of me staying in the game.”
And he’s still only 32, old enough to know the lay of the land and young enough to take advantage of that knowledge. That must be nice.
“It really is,” he said. “It has been a beautiful thing.”
Now it’s off to fight 47-fight veteran Nuerdanbieke, who is another fighter blessed with experience at an even younger age. And with the 28-year-old from Beijing coming off his first UFC win last November over Sean Soriano, something’s gotta give in the Octagon at the UFC APEX. Brown believes it won’t be him, as he’s more than familiar with the intangibles that show up in the middle of a tough fight.
“It’s just that mentality to show up and say, I'm fighting whoever,” he said. “That was the cool thing about me fighting under USA Boxing as an amateur boxer. You showed up and that day you were fighting whoever. It didn't matter. They put your name in a hat, they matched you there and you found out that day who you're fighting. And to have that mentality of ‘I'm fighting today,’ that does show up.”
So names don’t matter, experience is not an issue, and rankings are nice, but they don’t determine the outcome of a fight. Brown is fighting on Saturday, end of story. Well, not the end, especially from someone who’s seen a little bit of everything so far.
“I do have some good stories and I have a good story myself from what I've come from to where I'm at now, but to be honest, I'm hungry for more,” he said.
Dinner time is Saturday afternoon.
UFC Fight Night: Tsarukyan vs Gamrot Took Place Live From The UFC APEX In Las Vegas, Nevada on June 25, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!