Mike Brown hadn't lost a fight in ten outings over nearly four years when he stepped in the cage to put his featherweight title on the line against Jose Aldo at WEC 44 in November. Less than seven minutes in, he was face down on the canvas watching his belt and his win streak slip away one punch at a time.
How quickly fortunes change in this sport. Brown's been at it for nine years as a pro. He knows there's only one thing you can do to make the sting of a loss go away, and the sooner the better.
"I was depressed. That's why I called the WEC the next day," Brown says. "I called [WEC matchmaker] Sean Shelby and [WEC GM] Reed Harris and begged them to get me on the next card they could. They shuffled some things around and made some room for me and got me on there and I got a win. That's what I needed. That kind of helped me get my mind straight."
A first-round submission victory over Anthony Morrison two months later helped him put the defeat behind him, but reclaiming the title has become something of an obsession for him, Brown says. Having had the belt and lost it, now he knows what he's missing.
"Once you've done it, you know that it's doable. You've done it before and so you want to get back there. That's what you want is to get back to that feeling. It's like you're chasing that high. Nothing will satisfy you until you get it back."
But Brown says he doesn't just want to reclaim the title. What he wants is to take it specifically from Aldo. That's why, when you ask him who he's pulling for in this weekend's 145-pound championship fight between Aldo and Urijah Faber on the WEC's first ever pay-per-view event, he doesn't even need to think about it. As much as he might respect "The California Kid," he's got a lot riding on an Aldo victory at WEC 48.
If Aldo does retain the title, and if Brown can get past Manny Gamburyan on the undercard, a second meeting between them might well be next, according to what Brown says he's been told by WEC officials.
If he does get another crack at Aldo, Brown says he wouldn't make the mistake of pacing himself the way he did in the first fight.
"I was just coming off the five-rounder with Urijah and it was the first time I'd ever gone five rounds. So I was thinking, 'Okay, slow down so we can go five rounds and twenty-five minutes.' I had been training for that a lot more and doing a lot of cardio. I think I had gotten in that mode of being more like a long-distance runner as opposed to a sprinter, like I used to be.
"I think I came out too slow and was kind of pacing for a five-round fight to begin with. That's not my style. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn't. But that's what I would change is to try and come right out and put it on him in the first few minutes."
First, Brown has to worry about Gamburyan, who has won two straight since dropping to featherweight.
In the Armenian, Brown says he sees a fighter with a lot of power in his strikes and his ground game, but insists that doesn't worry him.
"I match up great with those guys. I've never been overpowered ever in my career."