It was the final minute of the Nov. 19, 2017 clash between Damien Brown and Frank Camacho. Brown was bloody and the two men were swinging wildly to the enjoyment of everybody who was watching live around the world.
As blood started to stream down Brown’s face, all that was on his mind were the punches he was throwing Camacho’s way. The punches that were being thrown toward his own head — all 137 of them throughout their 15 minutes together, according to FightMetric — were certainly noticeable, but at the time, as the world saw, they weren’t the be all and end all. Brown was doing his part in putting on a show, and his dance partner was doing every bit of the same.
When it was time for the winner of the action-packed bout to be revealed, Brown didn’t leave the cage with a “W” next to his name. In what was his 28th professional fight, he did manage to walk away knowing that he left everything inside the Octagon. He was rewarded, monetarily and personally, for doing so.
“Two days later, I watched that fight from a fan’s perspective, and I was on the edge of my seat myself — and I knew the result,” Brown told Combat Press. “It was pretty cool to watch it, and it was a pretty cool fight to be a part of. It’s probably not something you wanna do every fight, but it was still pretty cool to have that kind of fight in my career.
“Everyone says, ‘Let’s get ‘Fight of the Night,’’ but I really want ‘Performance of the Night,’ because that shit does not hurt. I don’t want a come-from-behind win and get a ‘Performance of the night’; I wanna go in there and put on a clinical display of high-level technical ability and get a finish impressively and then get a ‘Performance of the Night.’ You do definitely leave a portion of your health in there when you fight like I did last time, and you can’t do that every time.”
Although the fight itself was a success in terms of adhering to the entertainment expectations of fans and peers, the lead-up to his bout didn’t exactly offer the best set of circumstances for Brown.
It all started the day before at the weigh-ins. Camacho was fighting in the lightweight division for the first time in the UFC. The problem was that Camacho wasn’t at, or even near, the lightweight limit. He missed the mark by almost four pounds.
“I had a massive adrenaline dump after the last fight — bigger than I’d ever had before. I didn’t go out. I didn’t do anything. I just went back to the hotel,” Brown recalled. “It was exhausting, the whole two days’ worth. From the weigh-in and being told 10 minutes before the weigh-in that he was four pounds over, five pounds over, and then weighing in not knowing if you’re going to fight and then making a decision to fight. Then losing. Then fighting the way we fought, plus being told you won ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus and being told you won his as well because he couldn’t get it, but then they turn around and say you didn’t. It was highs and lows all weekend, more than I’d ever had before.”
The inability of a portion of fighters in the world’s premier MMA league to weigh in at their allowed weight for a bout has become a hot topic for 2018. In recent weeks, there have been a number of bouts scrapped or altered on weigh-in day.
Brown knows all too well what it is like being faced with the tough decision on whether to take a fight against a fighter who has failed to do their job. The alternative is to sit it out and see what happens.
“The only good thing that came out of that last fight was a bonus, and in terms of coverage it was a win. It got me far more recognition for the fight, and the way it went down, than what I would have gotten for winning an easy fight or for not taking it,” Brown explained. “In terms of fighters in general, taking fights against guys who miss weight, firstly, there’s no guarantee you’re gonna get your show money if you don’t take the fight. You can ask for it and they’ll tell you before you make the decision. They’ll say you’re not going to get it, or yes you will, but fans are unforgiving. If you don’t take a fight, they’re just going to destroy you for it. You’re the one that gets the shit, and you’re the one who has done the right thing.
“The smart thing to do business-wise is to not take the fight, and I’ve fought people who were over [the weight limit] before, but nobody who was two kilos overweight, especially someone who was dropping from a weight class above me. He was impressively stronger than me. When I shot on him for my first takedown, it was obvious to me that he was 10 to 15 pounds heavier than me that night.”
The risk versus reward is not great from the perspective of the fighter who has done their job and made the weight. Brown’s decision to take the fight resulted in a split-decision loss on his record. This marks his second setback in a row for the UFC.
“It put me on a two-fight losing streak, but at the same time I think the UFC is probably one of the best promotions in the world to look after people who do the right thing by them,” Brown said. “We’ve seen it before, where a guy makes their debut on a week’s notice and they get absolutely destroyed in like 30 seconds. They’re thinking to themselves, ‘They’re gonna cut me,’ but they’ll always give you another fight, whereas there’s other promotions in the world that won’t do that.
“If you take a fight against a guy who is over [the weight limit], they’ll give you another fight. I know Ashkan Mokhtarian. He’s lost his first two [UFC bouts], but his opponent missed weight in his last one and they’ve told him he’ll have another fight. Most guys who lose their first two, they get cut. They look after you in that point of view, but there is an expectation that you’ll take the fight anyway. Because, I mean, you look at the [UFC Fight Night 121] Sydney card — four people missed weight. Imagine if all four pulled out. Then they’re left with seven fights. That’s a pretty embarrassing UFC card.”
While there is a monetary stake in a fighter not weighing in at the correct weight, that still doesn’t stop the problem from rearing its ugly head. Brown did get a cut of Camacho’s purse, but, really, it could have — and should have — been a bigger cut for what was at stake.
“The penalties just aren’t big enough,” said Brown. “Thirty percent of someone’s pay when they are on the lowest pay scale, that’s only three grand and you only get 30 percent of their show money. [Camacho] won and there was a performance bonus [so] I should have got 30 percent of his earning capacity. Then the fight is worth more than three grand; it’s now worth like $25,000.
“I think from a fighter’s perspective, the benefits of taking a fight where the penalties stand at in this point in time, compared to the benefits of not taking it, you’re better off in not taking the fight. There’s no guarantee of a $50,000 bonus — that’s just the way I fight and the way he fought. If you take that out of the equation, there is no reason to take a fight except for the fact you’ve just put in a full camp and you wanna get paid. You are basically gambling your win bonus on it, because if you lose to the heavier opponent there’s obviously no win bonus either. It’s a shitty position for the guy who has done the right thing, because there’s nothing to gain from it except for doing the right thing by the promotion.”
At UFC 221, Brown is set to face Dong Hyun Kim, who is coming off an impressive win over veteran Takanori Gomi. With Brown coming off back-to-back losses, there is a lot at stake for the 33-year-old.
“He’s got heavy hands,” said Brown. “If he puts leather on you, he can put you to sleep. But if you look at the fight before [Gomi] against Brendan O’Reilly, that was boring. You don’t know who you are gonna get, but at the end of the day if he turns up and he wants to throw down, then it’s going to be a pretty exciting fight. He has that ability.
“I want to get a statement win and then weigh up what’s next. I’d really like to fight during International Fight Week. I know I probably wouldn’t get on [UFC] 226, but maybe one of those other cards that they have on during that week. I think it’d be great to be able to go over and fight during that week and then take it all in. That’d be something I’d love to tick off the list for sure.
“Hopefully a statement win would get me a big name who has had a couple of losses recently, because it’s pretty hard to get a top-ranked opponent when they’re winning, because they’re going up [the rankings] as well. Someone who is still one of the best in the world, like a Michael Johnson or Gilbert Melendez, hopefully I get one of these guys if I can get enough of a statement win.”