If you Google the term “The People's Champion,” more than 21 million results will show up on your browser, the vast majority of which are in reference to the famous pro wrestler turned actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. However, for fans of mixed martial arts, there's another man who is staking his claim to that moniker. “The Immortal” Matt Brown may use the nickname of a different pro wrestler, but after his performance at UFC Fight Night 40, the mania for his title run is not only running wild in hardcore circles, but among the masses as well. Over 6,000 fans in his home state of Ohio cheered and chanted his name throughout the contest, as well as afterwards, making the case for him as he formally requested a title shot in his next fight. His penchant for violence has engaged and galvanized the people, and that may prove too difficult for the UFC to ignore.
opportunity within the UFC good chance that another person may come to mind instead of the wildly popular professional wrestler turned actor. That man is Matt Brown, and
During this run of seven straight wins, Brown has looked like a fighter who is unwilling to accept even the idea of defeat. Erick Silva had Brown very visibly hurt multiple times during their three rounds of action, but the Ohio native refused to stop fighting back. He suffered through danger to turn the tables and batter Silva into defeat at the 2:11 mark of round three. But unfortunately, Brown will still have to endure quite the uphill battle if he's going to obtain the title shot that he covets.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is a mixed martial arts promotion with a plethoral of professional fighters on its roster who go out to the cage to win fights while performing for the praise of the fans and the executives in the back. Those that do so consistently slowly move up the organization's “rankings” in an attempt to jockey for a shot at their respective divisions’ titles. And winning seven straight fights in the Octagon is a feat that very few fighters can boast. While most have been champions or title contenders, two men -- Jim Miller and George Sotiropoulos -- never received a shot at the strap. And Jon Fitch famously had to win eight straight fights before he was named as a title challenger. However, Brown finishes at a much higher clip than either Miller or Fitch. Six of the seven wins during this run are by some version of knockout stoppage, which is a higher total than both Miller and Fitch had combined during their streaks.
So what’s stopping “The Immortal” from getting the title shot that he feels should be coming his way? Matt Brown has the winning part down for sure, but winning isn't enough to be considered a top contender at this stage of the game. Two factors stand out as major blockades to Brown’s rise to championship prominence.
First, Matt Brown's resume. His record of 19-11 isn’t particularly impressive, and doesn’t include the kind of big defining win that a fighter needs for a title shot. As mentioned in previous pieces, Brown was due to face Carlos Condit at UFC on Fox 9, but an injury forced him off the card a week before the event. A victory over the former interim champion would have been more than enough to catapult him into title talks. But without that win, his resume is built on fighters who have not truly cracked the top 15 rankings of the welterweight division. Before defeating Silva, Mike Pyle was probably considered his best win, and while that victory at UFC Fight Night 26 was a great performance, it doesn’t compare to some of the ledgers that other fighters have.
The second thing that has hindered Brown's momentum is the lack of promotion behind this current streak. To be fair, his last four fights have been featured on televised main cards, with two televised on Fox. That is a good amount of exposure, and the lead-up to this most recent main event bout on Fox Sports 1 spent a lot of time and energy developing the story of his underdog status and recent resurgence. However, the UFC is a marketing dynamo that knows how to push fighters to the forefront at a moment's notice. A recent example is when Patrick Cummins was inserted into the co-main event at UFC 170 to face top-tier heavyweight Daniel Cormier in his light heavyweight debut. While Cummins was largely unknown to MMA fans, the UFC still promoted the fight heavily and effectively on its various platforms, so much so that it garnered some interest in the larger sports world. Brown has yet to experience a fraction of that kind of push during his career.
Brown has always been outspoken in calling for big fights. He continued the trend after stopping Silva, but UFC President Dana White wouldn't go any further than saying that the fighter is “in the mix” when it comes to title contention. It's true that Brown doesn't have the name recognition of fighters such as Urijah Faber, B.J. Penn, or Nick Diaz – all of whom can almost talk themselves into big fights – but that doesn't mean the promotion shouldn't do more to raise him to that level. Brown has and will continue doing his part by acting as the proverbial “squeaky wheel,” but the UFC will still have to give him some much-needed grease.
It's hard to ignore a fighter who puts together the string of violence that Matt Brown has recently. After his performance at UFC Fight Night 40, it's clear that his star is on the rise regardless of the hurdles he has to jump. But if offered the opportunity to fight for the belt, we know Brown will make the most of it. This man of the people may not have the polished look of a UFC poster boy, or the star appeal that the company has longed for during its hard-fought quest to be considered “mainstream,” but he is the exact type of title challenger for Johny Hendricks that would deliver the non-stop violence and action that the fans crave. There might not be a belt for that, but there’s no denying Brown as the current world champion.