Sunday, December 8, 2013
By Steve Craig email@example.com
(Continued from page 1)
Mike Brown, a former state wrestling champion at Bonny Eagle High, long ago found his niche in mixed martial arts, growing with the sport as it gained popularity.
The Associated Press
Mike Brown, right, will be fighting in New England for the first time in nine years when he takes on Steven Siler during a UFC card in Boston on Aug. 17.
BACK IN THE UFC
WHO: Mike Brown vs. Steven Siler
WHEN: Aug. 17
WHERE: TD Bank Garden
Brown was serving as an assistant wrestling coach at the University of Southern Maine after competing collegiately at Norwich. He was in the fledgling stages of his own MMA career.
"He was trying to make some money to pay for his own training," Fenton said. "We approached Mike about instructing us in wrestling. That was 12-plus years ago."
Fenton and Brown now consider themselves brothers, bound by MMA, their Maine roots and, according to Fenton, Brown's intense loyalty.
"Mike was just such a genuine guy. We bonded and then we became great friends," Fenton said. "I've been fortunate to be a part of the evolution of Mike's career but Mike never changed."
It was Fenton who organized the seminar, with police officers paying $25 each to help Brown earn some extra cash. At the time Brown was living in a small apartment and commuting regularly to the Boston area to get better training as he fought in low-budget shows in places like Revere and Swansea, Mass.
The sport was just beginning to take off. Rules were ever-changing and the fighters themselves were often a mystery, coming from diverse martial arts background.
"The beginning of the sport was really nuts. That's what made me fall in love with it," Brown said. "At first the UFC really only had two rules: no biting, no eye-gouging.
"It took a lot more (courage) to fight then. Literally you could end up fighting a ninja. It was the fear of the unknown."
Brown won nine of his first 10 fights against an array of now mostly forgotten fighters. Then he lost back-to-back fights in 2004, the second to the current UFC star, Joe Lauzon of Brockton, Mass.
That fight would be his last in New England and signaled an important career change.
A FRIEND TO OTHERS
Since 2005 Brown has lived in Boca Raton, Fla., a short drive from the American Top Team gym in Coconut Creek.
Divorced many years ago, Brown lives with his girlfriend of three years. He does not have children. His mother, Kimberly McGowan, died early in his MMA career.
His connection to Maine is primarily through visits with close friends like Fenton and regular conversations with his stepfather, Mike Emmons of Saco, and his former high school wrestling coach, Ted Reese.
In an hour-long phone interview between twice-a-day training sessions, Brown said it was necessary for him to move from Maine to advance in his sport.
"Back then MMA wasn't even legal in Maine so there was very little of it up there," Brown said. "American Top Team offered me a chance to train. It's one of the best gyms in the world and I've been there ever since. Now I'm starting to coach some of the younger pros."
Brown took his newfound skills to Tokyo, winning two of his three fights.
Then he went on a 10-match winning streak that spanned three years and included a win in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and his upset TKO win over Urijah Faber to claim the WEC featherweight crown.
He defended his title twice, the second time with a convincing rematch win against Faber.
Fenton is one of the seven members of the Combat Sports Authority of Maine, which oversees the state's increasingly popular MMA shows as well as boxing promotions.
He was asked if he thinks Brown is given enough credit for his accomplishments.
"I think some people do. The sport's still growing," Fenton said. "Now people have the understanding a little more about how successful he has been."
In many ways, Brown is still a fan at heart. He is excited by front-row seats to MMA fights, perks like riding in a limousine from the airport, and has a video library of every UFC show. Fenton said his friend is still a little surprised that anyone would ask for his autograph.
(Continued on page 3)
click image to enlarge
Mike Brown, right, will be fighting next month for the first time since defeating Daniel Pineda, left, in a three-round decision in Las Vegas in May 2012.