Following his controversial loss to Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 251 this past weekend, Max Holloway’s career sits at a crossroads.
Like so many fighters there is a bit of the classic comic book Superhero to Brace MMA lightweight champion, Sonny Brown.
By day an IT Network Administrator, by night a cage fighter, who would slap on an armbar as easily as he would purge your computer of its viruses.
With an aggressive, finely tuned jujitsu game and ever improving stand up, Sonny Brown is quickly becoming one of the local MMA scene’s most exciting hidden talents.
And this weekend at Brace 19, inside the Sydney Luna Park Big Top, Brown slips on the uniform of his alter ego, as he looks to defend his lightweight belt against Oriol Gassett.
But before Brown was ever able to clamp a Gogoplata on his hapless opponent (as he did to win the title at Brace 11), he was just another guy, with any old job, sipping a beer at any old bar.
“Before I got into MMA, I had kind of finished up with sports and had gotten into going to the pub and just drinking beer, so I really needed something to get me healthy and keep me fit.” He said.
And the contrast from his day job could not have been more stark.
“When I first started I let out a lot of frustration and aggression in the gym. It was a great way to relax after work.”
“Sometimes I do wish I could fix my IT problems with a straight right, like in the cage.”
Eight months after hitting pads for the first time at North Manly’s own Langes MMA, Brown made the transition into the cage for his first pro fight, which he won by TKO. He says his focus heading into the first fight was like “looking through a keyhole.”
“Nothing has kind of come close to it, just the surreal nature of how it all felt.”
“Since then pretty much everything has changed in my approach.” He said, “I see the really top guys and there’s a lot of emphasis on relaxation.”
Since the first win, Brown has gone on to become a dangerous submission artist with four of his five wins coming via tap-out, including the ultra impressive gogoplata victory at Brace 11.
Fighting for the lightweight strap, up against a stronger, more dominant wrestler and with his back to the canvas for much of the fight, Brown pulled out one of the most technically demanding submissions in the game.
A move which not only require incredible flexibility (your leg needs to get under your opponent’s chin) but the skill and guts to seize on a rare opportunity from your opponent and briefly give them the chance to move into a strong attacking position.
“As far as I know, there hasn’t been too many others (sic) of them in Australia.”
“Danny [his opponent] was very strong with his top control position but in the third round he started to tire, so I just had to go for it.”
Despite the Brace title victory, Brown goes into this weekend’s bout with a little to prove, after his last outing, against former UFC lightweight Bernardo ‘Trekko’ Magalhaes, ended in a TKO loss.
“I definitely learnt a lot from that fight, just with my mindset and preparation going into that fight. I know it is cliched but you do take away a lot from a loss”
Standing in the way of redemption this weekend is Spanish veteran Oriol ‘The Cookie Monster’ Gassett: a 33-year-old boasting a 14-7 record and currently riding a three-fight win streak.
Brown says Gassett poses the kind of all round skill many veterans in the sport come to hold.
“He is just very well rounded and he has been around for a while. I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me.”
And Brown is right to worry Gasset has a mix of eight TKO, three submission and three decision wins. ‘The Cookie Monster’ is dangerous anywhere in the cage.
In the end though Brown say that win or lose he wants to put on a show for the fans.
“I’m expecting him to be a very good opponent, hopefully we can put on a damn good match.”
“I really want to put on a performance of good skill and technique. I want to show everyone what I can do.”
Gassett would be quite a big scalp for Brown to earn and could open up even more opportunities for the Brace champ to make his name in the sport.
With a raucous home crowd ready to spur him on, Saturday night may be another big stepping stone in the career of the fast rising IT Network Administrator.
Brace 19 is at the Luna Park Big Top in Sydney this Saturday night.