But "dominant" is exactly the word to describe Brown, the World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion who has beaten all comers in his weight class. As Brown prepares to fight Jose Aldo on Wednesday night in Las Vegas (live on Versus), he's getting close to a point at which he'll have completely cleaned out his weight class. And although Brown said in an interview with FanHouse that he's not looking past Aldo, he acknowledged that he'd like to try moving up to lightweight and fighting in the UFC.
Michael David Smith: What kind of an opponent do you think Jose Aldo is?
Mike Brown: He's very tough, a good striker who's been going right through people. He's been knocking people out so quickly that it's hard to see what his complete game is like, but his striking is good.
Have you watched a lot of film of him to get ready?
I've gotten six or seven of his fights and watched them all a couple of times apiece. I'll watch them, take a break from watching film, and then go back and watch them again. And I always make sure to give tapes to my coaches and ask them to watch them and come back and tell me what they think.
I've heard that he's a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt, but he's actually only submitted one opponent, and that was four and a half years ago. Have you seen much of what he can do on the ground?
No. He's had five fights in the WEC, and in those five fights he's been taken down one time, and in that one fight he got up after literally like two seconds. I did see one fight that he lost when he got taken down and submitted before he was in the WEC.
That was his only loss, against Luciano Azevedo in 2005. Do you think he's improved since then?
I'm sure he has.
Where do you think you have the advantage? Is it safe to say you're bigger and stronger than him? I would say you're probably the strongest fighter in the whole 145-pound weight class.
I'm pretty close to it. My advantages over him are strength, punching power and wrestling. On the ground it's kind of an unknown. I mean, he's a black belt, but there are very different calibers of black belts. There are guys who are black belts and then there are world-class Brazilian jiu jitsu champions, like Marcelo Garcia.
That's a good point: We hear all the time, "Oh, this guy's a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt." But Marcelo Garcia submits other Brazilian jiu jitsu black belts.
That's what we have at our gym: Some guys are black belts, but we have guys who are some of the best in the world in sport jiu jitsu. There are different levels of black belts. Saying two guys are both black belts doesn't mean they're even close to being on the same level.
Is Marcelo Garcia someone you're training with at American Top Team?
Not right now because he's up in New York, but I train with him when he's here. But we have a lot of great guys. We have "Tagarela" [Jonatas Gurgel] -- he's just a monster on the ground. We have JZ Calvan, we have Rafael Dias, Rafael Rebello, we've got some amazing guys.
Have you improved your Brazilian jiu jitsu from earlier in your career? All four of your losses are by submission. Can you say now that you wouldn't get caught in the same submissions that you were caught in a few years ago?
I can't say that I wouldn't get caught because great jiu jitsu guys still get caught in submissions. I mean, Wagnney Fabiano just got caught in a triangle. Who would have thought that? But I can definitely say I've improved to the point where now I think submission grappling is my strong suit. Ricardo Liborio is my head coach and the guys I work with on a daily basis have done a great job getting me ready.
You sound proud when you talk about the guys you're working with at American Top Team, and I remember after you beat Urijah Faber last time you got very emotional talking about those guys. Can you explain what it is about ATT that it has come to mean so much to you?
We're a really tight team. Everybody hangs together, everybody treats each other well, it's very friendly -- very welcoming. I don't have a big family, so they've become my family. And that last fight against Urijah in Sacramento, I just felt like everyone in the arena was against me and those guys were for me, and that meant a lot.
Who impresses you with their work ethic at ATT?
A lot of guys. JZ Calvan is one of the hardest workers we've got. Thiago Alves is an amazing fighter. Hector Lombard is a great guy, I don't know if a lot of people know about him, but he's a monster in the gym -- he just crushes everybody in the gym. Rafael Dias is really improved. There are too many to name.
Have you seen much of Kimbo Slice or Bobby Lashley?
Kimbo's in there every day. Bobby Lashley I haven't seen as much lately, I think he's been working out in Colorado. But Kimbo is in every day.
What do you think of Kimbo? How does he look?
He looks great. People don't realize that he really had no formal training. I was watching some of his stand-up and thought maybe he had some boxing training, but he said, "No, that stuff I just learned on the street with my friends." It's pretty amazing, and it's also amazing how humble he is. People bad-mouth him all the time, say he's no good, and he never, ever -- not once -- says anything bad about anybody. Even though everyone's looking at him and talking s**t. People think he doesn't deserve what he's gotten. He does deserve it. He's got a huge fan base.
Does Kimbo have what it takes to succeed in the UFC?
Yes. He's a great athlete who's just starting to learn the game. When he fought James Thompson, he had almost no training at all, and James Thompson is a guy who fought in Pride, and people thought Kimbo didn't knock Thompson out fast enough? That was Kimbo's third MMA fight and he was fighting a guy who had more than 20 pro fights.
A lot of people think Kimbo has no business in the UFC and is just there because of his name. It sounds like you're impressed with him.
I am, and I'm most impressed with his attitude: He's famous, he's making great money, but he just works hard and isn't afraid to fight anybody.
So are you looking forward to seeing him fight in December?
Everyone is looking forward to seeing him fight. That's the thing. People can say whatever they want to say about him, but everyone tunes in. Everyone wants to see him fight, going back to when he was with EliteXC. Now, is he as good as Fedor Emelianenko? No. But his ratings were better.
You're a big Fedor fan, aren't you? You and I have talked about him before.
Huge Fedor fan. The guy's amazing. Unbelievable.
I think he's the best in the world, pound-for-pound, and certainly the best heavyweight.
I agree. Just look at his record. I mean, the one loss wasn't even really a loss, he just got cut against Tsuyoshi Kosaka and they said he couldn't go on in the tournament. That doesn't even count to me. He's fought all these world-class fighters and never had a bad night. He's had 30-plus fights and has never gotten caught, never knocked out or submitted. And he's 230 pounds and fighting guys who are 280. He's one in 6 billion.
Do you try to model yourself after him?
I would love to, but I don't think I'm anywhere near his class. The guy is the greatest fighter on the planet. I just try to do the best I can do. Now I'm the No. 1 featherweight in the world, and that's enough for me.
You say you're not near his class, but the last time I did pound-for-pound rankings, I had Fedor No. 1 and I had you at No. 6. Do you think you're close to the best in the world?
I mean, it seems kind of weird to me that anyone would say that -- like it's a dream or something. I never anticipated I would be at this level, I just did this sport because I loved it, and I'm getting better all the time and winning a lot. I never thought I'd be the top featherweight in the world or one of the best pound-for-pound guys. It's just been something that's happened, that I've kept winning fights.
And you've got a big fight against Aldo. One of the things that I would think is difficult about him is his style -- do you have anyone at your gym who can prepare you for that style?
Actually, I think he's a mini-Thiago Alves. He throws very straight punches, just like him, great knees just like him, great kicks just like him. Aldo looks a lot like "Pit Bull," if you look at his style. Pit Bull is obviously a lot bigger, but he has helped me a lot with what to do in certain situations because Pit Bull approaches his fights the same way that Aldo does.
That's a good point -- I can see the similarities, especially in the way they both use their knees so effectively.
That's a big part of it but it's also the leg kicks. I think they're two of the best leg kickers in the game.
How much thought do you give to what's next for you, beyond your next fight? A third fight with Urijah Faber?
Right now I'm not really thinking about anyone other than Aldo. But it's been strange, a lot of the other guys who are high up there in my weight class have been knocked down, like Wagnney Fabiano. Rafael Assuncao is fighting Faber next, which should be a good fight. Josh Grispi is a very good featherweight but he's injured right now. Manny Gamburyan could be my next opponent if he beats Leonard Garcia. But I'm really just looking at my next fight.
Do you watch other promotions? I think Hatsu Hioki is probably the best featherweight outside the WEC, although he just lost what I thought was a bad decision to Michihiro Omigawa.
I haven't seen that one yet. I don't have HDNet, unfortunately, I wish I did. Hioki is a great fighter but he just got knocked off. These guys getting knocked off is sort of increasing the gap between me and Urijah and the rest of the pack.
I think you're right about that: The Sengoku and Dream tournaments served more to knock some top contenders off than to crown champions that would be real threats to you and Urijah.
Right, Omigawa has a .500 record, but he's winning big fights in Sengoku. And people thought Kid Yamamoto was the man but he lost in the Dream tournament.
So you're the No. 1 featherweight, you've already beaten the No. 2 featherweight twice, and Aldo is probably No. 3. If you beat him do you feel like you've cleaned out your weight class?
Yeah, I wouldn't have expected that, but I think it's happening.
If you clean out the featherweight division, is it time for a move up to lightweight?
I'd love to, especially because there's more money up there. That's definitely a possibility.
Have you talked to the bosses at Zuffa about moving up to lightweight in the UFC?
My manager has. I have another fight or two on my contract and then we'll see. The UFC can afford to pay more. Those guys are making bank.
Do you think you could compete at a high level if you were fighting guys 10 pounds heavier than the guys you're fighting now?
Yes. It'll be tough, especially because a lot of those guys are taller, but I think I've got the power and if I swing hard I can knock out anyone.
So you think it's possible that in a year we could see you in the UFC?
I think it's possible. I look forward to the opportunity.
But first you've got to defend your WEC belt. Would you care to predict how that'll go?
I don't like to make predictions, and I know the possibility of losing is always there. But I'm very confident in my abilities and I think I'm going to go out there and win the fight.