Matt Brown approaches every fight like it's his last day on Earth
When Matt Brown walks out to the Octagon to face Demian Maia Saturday in Brazil it could be the last thing he does.
That might seem extreme, but everything Brown does in preparation is colored with harsh tones because he looks at every fight as if he's walking into his own death.
"A lot of times before I go out to fight, I imagine myself dying in that fight," Brown said when speaking to FOX Sports recently.
Brown understands that sounds severe for a professional athlete who is going out to battle another man in a sanctioned fight, but it's the mindset that he adapts to let him know that there's no yesterday and there's no tomorrow.
There's only today.
"I do look at it as I'm walking out to my own death. I may die in there. If that's where I die, we're all going to die one day and I'd be happy to do it in a place that I love rather on a (expletive) hospital bed or a drunk-driving accident," Brown explained. "So if I do die in there, I'm perfectly content with it."
To understand why Brown feels that way about his fights, you'd have to dig much deeper into the psyche of one of the most mentally and physically prepared athletes on the entire UFC roster.
It's been 10 months since Brown last fought, but he never approached his training as if he needed to knock off ring rust or get his mind ready for the fight. See, Brown never stops getting ready even if he doesn't have an opponent or a date in mind for his next fight.
Brown's obsession isn't about getting the win -- it's about getting better each and every day.
That could be as simple as listening to an inspirational book about mental preparation or it could be a meditation session, where the Ohio-born fighter lets the world melt away around him as he gets his mind into the proper place to focus.
Take for instance Brown's approach to gym work since he moved to Colorado to become part of the Elevation Fight Team.
Most fighters approach training in segments. The morning might start off with conditioning and then grappling practice and then perhaps kickboxing and they might finish it off with sparring at the end of the night. It's not uncommon for fighters to pack in three or four training sessions per day with each one augmented for a specialized area to get them ready for what lies ahead.
What's different about Brown is he looks at his training for Maia as one continuous session, which never stops because he doesn't want to think about the ebbs and flows that may affect him throughout a day. If he thinks of his daily training regimen as one non-stop session that then flows into the next day and then the next, Brown can only think about the ways he's gotten better while not getting lost in the few moments where he may have stumbled.
"I keep a notebook with me all the time in the gym and the first thing I do while my mind is still in that adrenaline, high dopamine, mindset is I sit down and I write mental notes on the training. How I want this to carry over to my next training session. I have a whole deep process on why and how this works. It's all about bridging your training sessions," Brown explained.
"From the second I wake up until the time I go to bed, I'm doing these things. When I'm sleeping, I'm dreaming about this (expletive). So whether I win or lose, I'm hundreds of times better than the last time you seen me. It's all just getting one-percent better every day and when I get that one percent better every day, I've been off for 300 days so I'm 300-percent better than the last time you seen me fight."
It never stops, either.
Even when he's just driving in his car with his kids in the back, Brown is thinking about the ways that he can improve himself in every facet of life.
"I'll just go around listening to an audio book in my car for an hour with my kids sleeping in the back or whatever and I'll take note of what this means and how I can bring it to my next training session," Brown said. "Those little things are constant building blocks to build a wall in the end."
The reason why Brown is fascinated with getting better goes to the heart of what makes him tick and why he's so comfortable saying he's approaching an upcoming fight as if it's the last day of his life.
Brown wants nothing more than to achieve greatness, but that has nothing to do with winning or losing in Brazil. Brown wants to be great at everything he does.
Ultimately it all pays dividends towards his preparation, but Brown believes his obsession with greatness is what drives him further than any other fighter in the UFC and that's why he knows if he's on his best day, no one will beat him.
"I do a lot of reading and I read about other people who have done similar things. I believe it was Ernest Hemmingway who did a similar thing. Just people who have done great things in other parallel worlds. All this stuff cross-pollinates. How you do anything is how you do everything," Brown explained. "A lot of that whole process is being great at doing everything.
"That means being great at doing the (expletive) dishes. That means when I walk into this room right now in my office downstairs, I made this a great room with a great feel. What it ends up being is my life becomes great. In my notebook, I'm writing about greatness. I'm not writing about what I need to improve. Instead I'm writing about how I went down to my basement and I had a great visualization session. A meditation session. I went for a jog and had a great run. It's this constant greatness and that's what I'm breeding into my mind."
Brown knows the final outcome doesn't always equal victory but by eliminating any self-doubt, he's one step closer towards walking into the cage and staring down Maia with the kind of steely resolve that says 'you're not beating me today.'
"It doesn't matter how perfect you are, it doesn't mean you win the fight," Brown said. "Ultimately, that's irrelevant. What I have come to realize for my personal life, is that I'm great at life. I'm a great father, I'm a great person and I'm a champion at life and I've won that battle."
When speaking about Maia and their battle at UFC 198, Brown is thinking of this fight with the same approach as he does his training sessions.
To be great in the UFC, Brown needs to climb the tallest mountain and he knows for a fact that other fighters turned down this bout with Maia because of the danger he represents on the ground as one of the most prolific submission artists in the world. Add to that around 20 hours of travel to fight Maia in his home country of Brazil and it doesn't sound all that appealing.
That only made Brown want the fight that much more.
"For me, I embrace that challenge. I love it. I absolutely love the thought of making that mountain another 10,000 feet higher," Brown said. "That's how I look at it, I'm climbing a mountain every fight. It's just another mountain that I'm climbing. The more odds you put against me, it's a bigger mountain I've got to climb.
With the fight 24 hours away, Brown knows he's put everything into his body and mind to get ready.
He's trained with ground wizards like Jake Shields, who knows Maia better than almost anybody in the sport. He's drilled striking with the best kickboxers and stand-up coaches in the sport. He's visualized how this fight plays out a thousand times. He's thought about nothing else besides beating Maia.
Now he needs to make it a reality.
"Maia's a tough son of a (expletive) with every bit of a chance to beat my ass as much as I'm going to beat his. The problem is he just hasn't put in the work that I have. There's no possible way that he has," Brown said. "He doesn't have the drive, the motivation, the energy, the desire that I have. The only thing that he has is jiu-jitsu. That's literally the only thing that he has over me and I do know that he has that over me. I just have to beat that game and I've been training to beat that game and I know how to beat that game.
"I have the mindset, I have the strength, the power in me, I have technical abilities, I've put in more time than him. There's no way he's put in more time than me because if he did, that's going to be a detriment. I have trained to that line, I have went to that edge. I want to come back and show I'm still here, I'm still doing what I've been doing and getting better and you're going to see the best Matt Brown yet."