To ensure he’s prepared for his upcoming fight against Robbie Lawler at FOX UFC Saturday in July, top five ranked welterweight Matt Brown is pulling out all the stops for his training camp.
A win over Lawler will earn Brown a long awaited title shot against champion Johny Hendricks later this year, so there’s no skimping when it comes to putting together the best team possible to get him ready for war.
Amidst all the chess pieces Brown is putting in place for his team this time around stands a fellow top ranked welterweight with Olympic credentials and a propensity for beating all of Lawler’s teammates in his past fights. Former Bellator king Ben Askren came to Ohio to work with Brown ahead of his bout with Lawler, drilling wrestling, and helping to polish off the rough corners of his grappling game for a guy best known for his jaw ratting knockouts.
Brown may be seen as a brawler who launches forward like a missile attack, not stopping until his opponent is on the mat begging for the referee to stop the carnage, but deep down inside the former Ultimate Fighter hopeful has a lot more tools in his arsenal than just a striking game that’s won him seven fights in a row with six of them coming by way of knockout or TKO.
"He’s a well rounded fighter. People think he’s just a striker, but not only from watching him but wrestling him, I think he’s definitely well rounded, got a little bit everywhere, and obviously he’s most dangerous on his feet but he can fight anywhere he needs to fight," Askren told FOX Sports after working with Brown.
Doing pure wrestling with high level guys is what makes you get better. My striking gets better when I wrestle, my jiu-jitsu gets better when I wrestle, I think in a couple of years you might see me start fighting like GSP. I like wrestling
— Matt Brown
Brown spends much of his time getting ready for any opponent at the Ohio RTC (regional training center) working with some of the best wrestling coaches in the country including Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan as well as former NCAA champion J. Jaggers with grapplers like Reece Humphrey and JD Bergman going after him everyday. The wrestlers who share a mat with Brown don’t care that he’s a top five ranked UFC welterweight, much less that he’s main eventing a card airing on FOX.
During those days he’s just another warm body to throw around as both wrestler and fighter work to get even better.
It’s that desire to work with the best guys in the world why Brown wanted to train with Askren, to pick his brain ahead of the biggest fight of his career because iron sharpens iron and they just happen to be two of the best welterweights on the planet. Following his last training camp where Brown worked a ton with former UFC title contender Jon Fitch, this was just another example of the kind of fighter he wants to push him to get better so he can one day be the best in the world.
"He’s one of the best in the world at what he does," Brown said about Askren. "It’s going to help me with all the small little details that are always forgotten. A lot of people do MMA wrestling so to speak, but you miss a lot when you try to limit your wrestling. Doing pure wrestling with high level guys is what makes you get better. My striking gets better when I wrestle, my jiu-jitsu gets better when I wrestle, I think in a couple of years you might see me start fighting like GSP. I like wrestling.
"(Askren) is that next level. I love Jon Fitch, he’s absolutely amazing, extremely good at MMA but when it comes to wrestling he would admit as clearly as I would, Askren is that next level of wrestling. That’s what I’m always trying to do with myself, get to that next level with anything I’m doing."
While Askren isn’t fighting in the UFC now, there’s always the chance that he could land there eventually and facing Brown isn’t out of the possibility either. It’s one reason why so many times in MMA fighters from the same weight classes don’t train together out of fear that one day they could be forced to face each other, and all the secrets they shared on the mat could then be used against them in the cage.
Askren doesn’t believe in that old adage at all because as a wrestler he worked everyday with guys who were trying to take his spot. In the end, it all just comes down to the better guy winning.
"In wrestling, all the best guys go to the OTC (Olympic Training Center) or whatever so you’ve got to wrestle with the best guys on a daily basis and then still beat them in competition," Askren said. "Obviously I think fighting’s a little different since only so many people live close to each other, or somebody like a Tyron Woodley who we went to college together and we’re friends, I wouldn’t want to fight somebody like that, but besides that you’ve got to train with guys you might fight. It’s not personal by any means. It’s a job.
"It’s always great to work with someone on a seven fight win streak, that’s so tough to come by. I think it’s pretty clear he’s in the top five in the world so it’s always nice to judge yourself by something like that."
Brown’s fight camp is just warming up because his bout with Lawler is still more than five weeks away, but every little bit helps and that’s where a guy like Askren comes in so valuable. It also raises the question about Brown’s strategy ahead of July 26 where he’ll face a fellow knockout artist inside the Octagon.
Is Brown ready to put Lawler on the mat with a double leg takedown instead of a right hand to the jaw?
"I’ll keep that for the next guys to find out," Brown said with a smile.