The online comment followed the story hyping Saturday’s Mike Brown vs. Manny Gamburyan fight at Sacramento’s ARCO Arena: “I’ll be pullin’ for Brown. Us furniture movers gotta stick together.”

Nice compliment. I mentioned it to Brown after he answered his cell phone the other day in California. He had a few minutes to spare before a workout.

“Yeah? A guy wrote that? Where are you going with this?”

Brown may have sounded a little testy but he gets a pass. The World Extreme Cagefighting card is a big deal, although Brown isn’t part of the main event. Jose Aldo, the young Brazilian who needed just two rounds to take Brown’s WEC featherweight (145 pounds) title meets Urijah Faber, the former champ and local hero.

Most of the buzz is about Aldo vs. Faber.

Then there’s the Ben Henderson-Donald Cerrone fight for the WEC lightweight title.

Finally, this is the WEC’s first pay-per-view card and at $44.99, some fans say it’s overpriced.

Who besides furniture movers are showing Brown a little respect?

“I know what that’s about now,” said Brown, the pride of Bonny Eagle High. “I talked about it in an interview I did. I was a mover for Earle W. Noyes one summer in Maine. It was the worst job I ever had. Lots of heavy stuff. No glory in lifting 160-pound couches. Man, that was some heavy lifting.”

Which, of course, is what he does when he enters the cage for a paycheck. There is considerably more glory when people shout his name.

He has fought in ARCO Arena several times. Last June he heard the boos cascade down from thousands of Faber fans when he met their favorite to defend the title he took from him. Brown won again.

“I get a little love when I come back (to Sacramento). Fans know this is a tough sport. I try to treat everyone with respect. I’m just a regular blue-collar guy. I put my hard hat on when I go to work.”

A furniture mover who graduated from Norwich University with a degree in biology. He considered pre-med. Now he just wants to reclaim the title he lost to Aldo.

If Brown beats Gamburyan, a 28-year-old native of Armenia now living in California, the belief is he’ll get the winner of Aldo-Faber.

Which has put him in an awkward position this week when people ask: Would he rather fight Aldo or Faber?

Brown is no one’s fool. He has to beat Gamburyan (10-4), nicknamed the Pit Bull. Gamburyan has power and his background is in judo. He’s seven years younger than Brown, who turns 35 in September.

If Gamburyan becomes Brown’s 24th victory against five losses, the challenge is in beating Aldo, not Faber. Aldo is 23 and hungrier than some. His overall MMA record is 16-1. He grew up poor, sometimes not knowing when he would eat again, according to stories that have been told. Another story tells of his two older sisters rolling him into a barbecue pit while his mother was distracted.

Faber is the child of hippie parents. Like Brown, he has his college degree. Faber’s story has been retold time and again in California. Saturday’s fight may be his last chance to win back the title.

The attention is off Brown, but not the self-imposed pressure to win. “This is a business. I know how it works. I had my shots (at winning and defending his championship.) Now it’s somebody else’s turn. I’m cool with that.”

Don’t misunderstand. Brown expects his turn to come around again. Memories of his quick loss to Aldo still burn. He tried to pace himself that night, believing their bout would go the full five rounds.

After capitalizing on the mistakes of other opponents, Brown made his own. He’s gone back to school. He understands the heavy lifting part.


Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

[email protected]


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