Since mixed martial arts didn’t come to Martin Brown – literally – Martin Brown had to go to mixed martial arts.
“Where I’m from in Mississippi, there were not many places to do jiu-jitsu,” said Brown, who grew up watching MMA on television and practiced taekwondo, karate and kickboxing in his youth. He also received some hands-on training from his brothers.
“I grew up in the country, so we were always wrestling each other,” Brown said. “I was pretty good at it too.”
Although Brown frequently watched wrestlers like Mark Coleman during his introduction in MMA, he chose to model his fighting style to another fighter with a background in wrestling but was known for highlight-worthy knockouts – former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
“You would always see more black people in boxing and other sports, but once I saw [Rampage] picking up and slamming people, I became a fan,” Brown said. However, he didn’t take an immediate liking to stepping into a cage to actually compete in MMA.
“I used to be scared to take a fight, but the owner of a local gym was putting on fights and asked me to fight, so I did him a favor,” Brown said. “I ended up knocking the guy out, and then later I fought him again and knocked him out again for a belt.”
Brown began his pro MMA career in 2009 and won five of his first eight fights, and also enjoyed a 6-fight win streak while competing for various regional MMA organizations. Brown also enjoyed a 2-1 record in three fights as a member of Bellator MMA, and endured the organization’s regime change from former president Bjorn Rebney to current president Scott Coker.
“The biggest issue was finding fights,” Brown said of his time in Bellator. “I was only fighting one fight every six months for them, and then I had hand surgery that put me out for a while.”
Brown signed with Titan Fighting Championships in 2016 and has amassed a 3-2 record in the organization en route to an overall 13-5 pro record. Brown is currently the Titan FC interim lightweight champion after defeating Beibit Nazarov (15-4) in Kazakhstan in December of last year.
Brown didn’t notice much difference between competing in the United States and Kazakhstan, except for one key detail – the weather.
“It was freezing,” he said. “I couldn’t go outside for a jog and I had to make weight in the cold. It didn’t actually bother me at all, though. I left a week early to do the weight cut in Kazakhstan, and since I had my face plastered all over the city, people are running up to you to take pictures. It was nice to see that culture of hospitality.”
Brown and Nazarov will rematch for the interim belt at Titan FC 56 on Friday, Aug. 23. Although Brown is the champion and focused on defending his title, he ultimately does not let being a titleholder define who he is as a fighter.
“I don’t much stock into belts,” Brown said. “Belts can be taken away; wins can’t. Just tell me how many rounds you want me to fight, three or five. But this is my first time defending a belt, and you’re not a champion until you defend it.”
Brown doesn’t think the rematch will unfold much different from his first meeting with Nazarov. Except Brown doesn’t expect to be deducted any points for an accidental illegal strike, which is what happened when the two met for the first time last year.
“I’m not sure why I did that, but it was like a love tap,” Brown said. “He barely felt it. I’m good at controlling where the fight goes and my jiu-jitsu, wrestling and striking are all solid. I only need to crack you one time and not to belittle him, but I know how to fight.”
Since Brown is already 35 years of age, his main goal for his career has evolved from just wanting to compete in the UFC to having a legacy similar to another fighter he admires: legendary boxer Bernard Hopkins.
“I don’t want to fight as long as he did, but he started his career in his early 30s and lost his first fight, but then won his next 20-plus fights,” Brown said. “I may not be the most athletic or fastest fighter, but I’m the toughest, and those are good attributes for fighting. I want to be known as a true mixed martial artist.”
Brown would like to thank his training partners at Gracie Brandon and American Top Team Tampa, including Ralph Garcia. Brown would also like to thank his sponsors, including Perez Eye Center and Gulf Coast Energy. Follow Brown on Instagram and Facebook.
Photo Credit: Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post