The Ultimate Fighter
Randy Brown isn’t fighting for a world title when he meets Vicente Luque this Saturday in Las Vegas. But the way he’s approaching this fight and every other one from here on out would lead you to believe otherwise.
Simply put, the MMA apprenticeship of “Rude Boy” is over. Entering his tenth UFC bout, he knows that every win moves him closer to a welterweight title shot, while every loss knocks him a couple notches down the ladder. That pressure could break some people.
Not Brown, who just turned 30 on July 8, but came to this realization two years ago before his fight with Niko Price.
“I remember the exact fight when I hit my stride, and I was like, 'Okay, this is it. We're gonna go on a run now,'” recalled Brown. “‘Everything in my game is coming together, I'm looking great in the gym, and this is it now. Strategically, I'm calm, I'm seeing everything when I fight, and the experience is kicking in now and I feel it.”
“That was the first time I felt that way and, of course, I lost. And that put a bigger chip on my shoulder. Damn, I was doing everything right, I felt good, and it was just a simple mistake, something you can't prepare for.”
Brown couldn’t prepare for the second-round finish of the Price fight because the hammerfists from his back knockout by “The Hybrid” was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Not that it made Brown feel any better after the fact, but now, he can accept it for what it is.
“Exactly,” he said. “And if you look back at that fight, that's a fight that I was winning. So I kept that mentality and multiplied it by the chip that I had on my shoulder and said, ‘All right, I'm gonna get back in the gym and I'm gonna go even harder.’ We kept grinding, I came back and when I fought (Bryan) Barberena, he was coming off a Fight of the Year candidate with Vicente. I was a big underdog and I said, ‘I'm gonna show people that this dude's not on my level.’ Styles make fights and it felt like I was a stylistic nightmare for the dude and I went out there and I showed people I'm still here and I'm still a force to be reckoned with.”
Brown looked in top form in stopping Barberena in the third round of their bout in June 2019, and five months later, he earned his first UFC Performance of the Night bonus by submitting Brazilian standout Warlley Alves in Brazil. The Jamaica native was now firing on all cylinders after notching his sixth UFC victory and ready to take a big step to the next level against the highly regarded Luque in April of this year.
Then COVID-19 had something to say about that, scrapping the bout. Luque went on to fight the next month at UFC 249, stopping Price in the third round. Brown expected “The Silent Assassin” would move on to a ranked opponent next, but he was pleasantly surprised when the Brazilian agreed to make good on their original fight.
“I'm excited that we're rebooked and I'm actually surprised we were able to do that, being that my opponent actually fought previously and I thought that would probably slingshot him up the rankings and he would look to fight up, but he didn't,” said Brown. “He was a man of honor and code and he decided, you know what, I'm gonna run it back and give this guy the original fight that he had, and hat's off to him for that.”
It’s the fight Brown wanted at the time he wanted it, allowing him to get in as full of a camp as anyone can get in the pandemic era. That was more important for him than to try to keep the momentum of his two-fight winning streak going by taking a short-notice bout.
“For me, it's one of those things where I've been learning on the job,” Brown explains. “And the more time you give me to prepare, the more dangerous I'll be. I'm extremely consistent with the work that I put in and I'm very diligent and very strategic with the work that I put in. So honestly, I think that more time works in my favor. Obviously, I would have loved to keep the ball rolling and have kept going, but it didn't make sense for me to prepare for a fight and not be at a hundred percent, knowing that this is the fight that is going to put me in the rankings, and possibly the biggest fight of my career. It wouldn't be fair for me or the fans to not give me a full camp and have me go in there half-assed.”
That doesn’t mean Brown was idle as he waited for his return to be finalized. In addition to training, he kept his Twitch (TouchNGo170) game up to speed, delivered episodes of his “The Pro and The Bro” podcast, and even built his own PC.
“I am THE gamer,” laughed Brown. And when it was suggested that maybe he can just go get a bonus this weekend and buy a new computer, he wasn’t having it. He was building his own monster.
“I get an edge over the competition, so there's that,” said Brown, whose online gaming buddies include fellow New Yorkers Chris Weidman, Gian Villante, Andre Harrison and Philip Rowe. And don’t think this is just a way to get away from the fight game. For Brown, what happens with a controller in his hand plays into what happens in the Octagon.
“Creativity, having that creative mind in the fight approach, willing to try things that others are not willing to attempt,” he said of the benefits he gets from gaming. “I think being a video game guy opens your mind to versatility.”
At this point, you may discern that Randy Brown sounds like someone who has figured out the fight game. That’s at 30. Could we say the same thing about the 23-year-old version of him?
“Absolutely not,” he laughs. “My mindset at that time was, ‘Kill, kill, kill, I'm the best in the world.’ And I go back and watch myself and it's like, 'Bro, you look like s**t.' (Laughs) Me right now would absolutely kill old me. But that's what comes with maturity and experience and time. I'm glad things happened when they happened. There's a rhyme and a reason for everything.”
That’s a whole lotta patience for someone who has finished four of his last five wins.
“I know where I'm headed,” Brown explains. “I got a lot of critics, so it's one of those things where I know I need to take my time with my approach. I need to be smart and strategic with my approach because I know my ability and I know where I'm headed, and I know the things that I'm capable of. So, for me, there is no rush because I know exactly where I'm going.”
Where might that be? Brown might not even know at this point, which is the beauty of having limitless potential. But as he keeps moving forward, it’s safe to say that he’s going to be able to handle it.
“What I've done is learned how to separate things,” he said. “I've learned to take social media for what it is, I've learned to take the fight game for what it is, and I look at it as a source for a better life. So, I focus on my craft and continue to hone my martial arts and I just keep getting better and keep the blinders on. And I don't want to sound too arrogant about this, but when you know your ability, it's kind of like, ‘Okay, I f**ked up before but I'll be back.’ You just keep going until you get it. And now we work.”