Dana White told reporters on Saturday that he needed to announce a headliner for the UFC on FOX 12 card pronto. As in, his deadline was Tuesday, and the marketing staff was getting antsy. Turns out the reason he was waiting was because one of principals he had in mind was competing at UFC 173 in Las Vegas.
Robbie Lawler, who took apart Jake Ellenberger just a couple of days ago to up his ante for another shot at Johny Hendricks, will now headline that July 26 Fox card in San Jose. His opponent? None other than the surging Matt Brown, who matches Lawler in all phases of aggression. The stakes? A title fight versus Hendricks.
As far as explosive pairings go, they don’t get better. Hendricks and Brown, coming together in 2014, are like fuses racing to the dynamite.
That July card will mark Lawler’s second fight since his mid-March bout with Hendricks, a back-and-forth battle that will likely end up in the running for Fight of the Year honors. For Brown, whose fight with Erick Silva on May 10 in Cincinnati featured perhaps the best single round in UFC history, a victory could silence detractors who’ve been critical of his non-top-10 opposition.
So what was Brown doing when he got the call from Joe Silva?
"I was actually out in the woods and didn’t have any service," he said during an impromptu chat on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "I was sitting there roasting a marshmallow with my kids or something, and it was like, okay, I guess you better put the marshmallow down."
That was on Sunday, just hours after Lawler took out Ellenberger with a third-round TKO. Because he came out unscathed, he was able to jump in for the title eliminator. The only hitch could in what happens at UFC 174 in June, when the top welterweights -- Tyron Woodley and Rory MacDonald -- square off.
Asked if he watched Lawler’s fight this weekend, Brown said no, that in the spot he was camping there was no service in the woods. In Lawler’s previous fight with Hendricks, Brown was on record saying he wasn’t overly impressed with the way the champion fought. He used the word "patty cake" in his assessment.
"Well, I was speaking in terms of that specific fight," he told Ariel Helwani. "Lawler, there’s no question the guy has knockout power and I don’t know what happened that night or why he fought that way or why it ended up being that way, but he definitely has the power to knock people out, so, I mean, he’s looked amazing in his recent UFC run.
"It’s funny, you go back and look at his record [before UFC] and it’s sort of like mine. He’s got 10 losses, I think, and I’ve got 11. There was a lot of speckles of wins and losses and as of late we’ve both been on a pretty good run. Of course he lost for the title, but that was a close enough fight that could have went either way. So he’s been doing really good. I think he’s really come into his own and I feel the same way about myself."
Brown has been a lot more vocal about his spot in the contender’s line ever since knocking out Mike Pyle in half-a-minute last August. But with longtime champion Georges St-Pierre relinquishing the belt to take a break, and the roiling mass of welterweights vying for the vacant belt, Brown got a little lost in the shuffle.
Lawler, though, expediting his cause with victories over Bobby Voelker, Josh Koscheck and Rory MacDonald. Though Brown said he’s not surprised to see Lawler flirting with another title shot now, he was surprised Lawler got a shot the first time.
"I thought there was more deserving guys in my opinion, but he’s always been an exciting fighter," Brown said. "He’s been around a long time and he beat some really good guys so, I think it was totally justified, and the fight he had with Hendricks proved that it was justified. I understand why things work they way they work. I don’t complain. You just got to keep fighting and keep winning and good things will happen."
As for the instant expectation of a classic all-out barnstorming brawl that accompanies a fight against Lawler -- as the headliner on the FOX flagship, no less -- Brown said he didn’t feel any added pressure.
"I wouldn’t say so. I don’t feel external pressure any more so than I feel internal pressure," he said. "I put more pressure on myself than anybody else could put on me, so it doesn’t affect me in any way."
Though Brown did say he might get his still-tender elbow checked out to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong, he said the quick turnaround was fine with him. In fact, it was preferable.
"There’s not a lot I do for a living, this is all I do is fight," he said. "My life is far better when I have a fight than when I don’t have a fight. I don’t know what to do when I don’t have a fight coming up. I run around like a chicken with my head cut off. I don’t know what to do with my life. I’m out there running around like crazy, I don’t know what to do."