Matt Brown is proud of his old-school roots when it comes to mixed martial arts.
Long before he was tied for the record for most knockouts in UFC welterweight history, the 17-year veteran was just a guy who liked to fight. There’s no better example than how Brown made his professional MMA debut in 2005, which came just three months after he suffered a broken jaw in training.
“Funny enough, there’s a newspaper article [about it],” Brown revealed on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “This was in Lancaster, there’s a newspaper guy coming to interview all the fighters, it was a group of fighters out there, Aaron Crowell, Higher Power Promotions if you remember this locally. He’s coming to interview everybody, and after I got my jaw broken, I didn’t know it was broken.
“My mouth was bleeding a lot and in the newspaper article it talked about, ‘This guy named Matt Brown is spitting blood into a cup as he’s doing the interview with me.’ It made for a pretty good article.”
According to Brown, the pain from his broken jaw was severe, but not enough to make him want to pay out of pocket to get proper medical treatment. In fact, the 41-year-old Ohio native didn’t even bother to get an x-ray done right away, but he eventually discovered that his jaw was fractured in two separate places.
“I just didn’t have a mouthpiece and I was sparring,” Brown said. “Hit the jaw, broke it in two spots. I think it’s part of why I have such a strong jaw now. It repairs stronger than it was before. Never got it wired or anything.
“I didn’t know it was broken. I was like, ‘Well, it hurts.’ I got an x-ray a week or two later. I didn’t have insurance or anything so it’s like, what do you do?”
Brown says he continued dealing with the pain from the broken jaw after returning to training — even while just hitting a heavy bag as the vibrations reverberated throughout his entire body.
Despite the fact that he never actually received medical care for the broken jaw, much less took time off from the gym, Brown ended up booking his professional debut five weeks later.
“[My jaw] definitely still hurt,” Brown said. “I had a boil and bite mouthpiece. I didn’t have no professional mouthpiece so I wasn’t protecting it very well.
“I remember going in thinking the guy [I was fighting], he was a Golden Gloves boxer. A really good one. I remember I wanted to show that my Muay Thai would outdo his boxing. I was like, ‘I’m just going to take this motherf***** down. If he hits me in the jaw, it’s going to hurt really bad.’”
The event took place in Lancaster, Ohio — a city that sits just over 30 miles southeast of Columbus — with Brown taking on Ricardo Martinez.
While there was obviously a lot happening on the night he made his pro debut, Brown will never forget the look of the cage, which gave him an idea about his strategy for the fight.
“The cage, it must have been made out of dog kennel panels because it had a bar running straight across the middle,” Brown described. “About belly button height, so I thought I’m just going to run him straight into that bar and that’s exactly what I did.
“I just did a double leg, a blast double, ran his back as hard as I could into that bar and it was an easy fight from there. As soon as he hit the bar, he [screamed]. Pretty sure that it worked.”
Brown can’t verify for certain that the cage doubled as a dog kennel, but he definitely remembers that the cage link fence didn’t have any kind of protective coating like the kind that makes up the UFC octagon.
Regular chain-link fencing is just raw metal — complete with jagged edges and bent pieces — and Brown absolutely noticed before the fight started.
“This was chain link from f****** Home Depot,” Brown said. “Like the cheap stuff. I just wanted to use my surroundings. I was like well, there’s a bar there, the fence itself is a little bit rough. I’m going to try to use this to my advantage. It worked out.”
The end result was Brown finishing the fight with a first-round neck crank submission to move to 1-0 in his career.
He eventually got to the UFC less than three years later, but Brown will never forget those early days in his career when fighting was just about fighting and not much else mattered.
“We’re young kids and we just wanted to fight,” Brown said. “It’s such a different world today of course, with social media and the whole size of the sport, the chances out there. Back in my day, we just wanted to fight.
“Ohio used to have more shows than any state in the country and there would be shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I know guys that would fight on all three of them. We were just a bunch of young, savage dumbasses. But we had a f****** blast doing it and it made us who we are today.”