The UFC is back after a month-long layoff on a card that will be headlined by Featherweights Calvin Kattar and Giga Chikadze. Opening the card are TJ Brown and Charles Rosa. Brown was initially scheduled to face Gabriel Benitez, but Benitez tested positive for COVID, so Rosa took this fight on short notice. Initially scheduled to take place at 145, this fight will now be contested at Lightweight.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Brown as he prepared to fight. Take note: when Brown agreed to an interview, he was still scheduled to fight Benitez, so parts of the original interview had to be edited.
TJ Brown (15-8 overall, 1-2-0 UFC) is fresh off of his first win in the UFC. In an exciting bout Brown earned the split decision over a tough opponent in Kai Kamaka III back in May. A well-rounded fighter with 13 finishes in his 15 wins, Brown is also exciting to watch and that should be the case when he faces Charles Rosa.
Charles Rosa (14-6 overall, 5-6-0) stayed active with three fights in 2021, and is now on the opening card of 2022. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Rosa is dangerous on the ground but has yet to string together a winning streak in the promotion through 11 bouts. Coming in on short notice will make it tougher for the Boston native, but even as an underdog, Rosa cannot be counted out in this fight.
TJ Brown Sits With Danny Poldosky
Danny Podolsky: First and foremost, how has training been going ahead of this fight?
TJ Brown: Training has been going great. I’ve been splitting time between Westside MMA and Glory MMA. Camp is going well; I’m getting a hard push from the guys down at Glory. I’m easing back right now going through most of the technical stuff and trying to get my weight down. As soon as I got offered a fight, I was ready to go. I had been out most of the year after my last fight so I was really pushing to get back in the cage.
Podolsky: Having had an 8-month layoff and back-to-back full camps, do you feel like you’re in good shape heading into this fight?
Brown: It was really ideal for me to get a full camp. When I fought [Danny] Chavez on a week’s notice, the fighter in me took the fight, but it wasn’t the most strategic plan for me. It’s important for me to have a full camp and although I haven’t fought since May, I’ve been in the gym every day and steadily improving.
Podolsky: When we last spoke, you had been coming off back-to-back losses, but this time you’re coming off of a win over Kai Kamaka. Does that affect your mindset at all coming in?
Brown: There was a lot of pressure on me to get that first UFC win and now that I’ve got it, I feel like I have a bit of momentum behind me. I feel like I knocked the door down when I get a contract on the Contender Series. But as soon as I got in the door, I tripped over my own feet. But now with my last fight being a win, I’m back standing up and running.
Podolsky: Your last fight with Kai Kamaka was one of the best fights of the year and a close split decision. Had it not been for the main event between Jiri Prochazka and Dominick Reyes, it likely would have been the Fight of the Night. Did they give you any bonus for that fight and was it disappointing to not get the 50K?
Brown: It was a bit heartbreaking not to get the Fight of the Night bonus. My manager, my coaches, and I were all sitting back there after the fight and knew we were going to get the bonus. So then to get the news that we didn’t get it was a bit upsetting, but I just used that as a bit of motivation to go out there and perform in this next fight. Hopefully, I can go out there and get the job done along with a bonus.
Podolsky: I saw you posted a video of you training with Bryce Mitchell. What is it like for you to be able to work with him, seeing as he’s a top 15 Featherweight?
Brown: I don’t know if people know this or not, but Bryce and I have been training together my whole career. He’s been there my entire career and we have always fed off of each other. We’re a great match because he’s more of a ground shark and I like to think of myself as more of a standup fighter. So it’s great having him and he’s fun to be around.
Podolsky: Considering that there are not a whole ton of MMA fighters from Arkansas, are there other guys that you train with that you think could be in the UFC one day?
Brown: For sure, we’ve got one guy who just turned pro, his name is Kyle Thompson, who’s an absolute beast and former wrestler. As well as my brother Dylan Johnson, who’s a division one wrestler and just getting his feet wet in MMA. Those are just a few off the top of my head; I hate if I’m forgetting anybody. There’s a swarm of good talent down here, but it’s tough to get the exposure that we deserve.
Podolsky: If all goes well and you beat Charles Rosa, how active do you want to be in 2022?
Brown: Man, please. I’m not getting any younger and to be honest, I’m a better man when I have fight camps. I really hope to stay active for the entire year of 2022, so let’s get this ball rolling.
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