Welterweight Sean Brady is no longer an undefeated pro MMA fighter, and there’s a big part of him that’s relieved.
Brady was stopped by Belal Muhammad in the second round of their featured preliminary bout at UFC 280. In the aftermath, he allowed himself a little bit of time to be sad about the result. But in the immediate moments afterward, he felt 50 pounds lighter.
“Literally the second that fight was over, I had this sense of relief,” the Philadelphia standout said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I was carrying around this weight on my shoulders of being undefeated, it almost felt like my entire life was built around me being undefeated, and if I lost that, my life would be over.
“As soon as I lost, I was like, ‘That’s the worst thing that could happen to me, and it’s done,’ it’s over with. I don’t have to worry about it anymore. My mind has opened up so much, I just feel this sense of relief that I can just be a new person, I can be a new fighter.”
Heading into the massive event in Abu Dhabi, Brady had won all 15 of his pro fights, which included a 5-0 start to his octagon tenure, and a ranking inside the top-10. In his prior appearance, Brady defeated the highly ranked Michael Chiesa via decision, but had a tough third round against the longtime veteran and ended up getting nose surgery following the fight.
Being a true student of the game, Brady understands he’ll have to work his way back to where he wants to be, but he won’t be the first to have to do that.
“I’ve always asked myself, ‘How are you going to react if you lose?’ Because it’s a possibility,” Brady said. “I know, I mentally beat myself. I went back and watched the fight, and I looked good in the first round, but in my mind, I’m my hardest critic, and it cost me the fight.
“If I could go back and choose to win the fight, I wouldn’t have. All the lessons I’ve learned about myself, and all these little things that I need to change — and will change moving forward — wouldn’t have happened. I would’ve continued doing the same things I was doing, and eventually it would’ve caught up to me. I’m so happy that this loss happened to me now, because guys will lose one fight and go on these crazy tears. ‘GSP’ lost, went on this crazy tear, Islam [Makhachev] lost once. I was going to lose eventually, and I’m really happy with how I’m handling it.
“I’m good. I’m happy. I’m not devastated. Yeah, it sucks, but you can’t go swimming without getting wet. Eventually it’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen to all of us, but I’m not even 30 years old. My career is just starting now.”
Brady was quite confident he would get the win with his physical skill set. But mentally, he said fight week was not kind to him, and he was continuously second-guessing himself — even on the walk to the octagon.
All in all, the result gave Brady plenty to think about, and it put him in a position to build toward the potential most pundits had for him, which he believes he wasn’t ready for.
“If I had won that fight, I would either have fought in a No. 1 contender fight, or even possibly for the belt, crazier things have happened, and I’m not ready for that,” Brady said. “I’m honest with myself, and I know mentally I’m not. Physically, my skills, I know I can beat anybody in the world, but mentally, that entire week, I just beat myself. Even going into the fight, walking into the arena, I beat myself, and Belal, he did good.
“I just didn’t believe in myself. I started questioning myself, ‘Do you deserve to be here?’ And I was having dreams that I lost — in the dreams, I didn’t lose to Belal, I just lost a fight. I was like, ‘F***,’ and I couldn’t get back on track to me winning. Every time I thought about it, I couldn’t go back to how good I was, how good my skills were, so I was mentally beat before I even got in there. Even when the [closing] flurry of punches were happening, I wasn’t out. I should’ve grabbed him, I should’ve thrown one punch back, I was watching the clock. I was watching it go from 20 [seconds] to 11, and I thought I was going to make it to the next round. But I froze. I just mentally f****** froze.”