Don’t expect World Exteme Cagefighting featherweight champion Mike Thomas Brown to give up his Ford Focus for an Escalade. “I’m not really into cars…I’d rather work a lot less and just have a car that brings me from Point A to B,” he says. After roughly five years in Florida and on the eve of his title defense against Jose Aldo, the Maine native talks about what it would mean to fight in front of a friendly audience (for once), building his career in a state that was inhospitable to his passion, and the busted-ass cars that helped ferry him to a championship.
FIGHT!: What do yo miss the least about living in Maine besides the weather?
Brown: That’s it, man. It’s a long winter; it seems like it’s eight or nine months. There’s a lot of snow, you drag it into your house, you drag it into your car, it wrecks all your shoes. The snow is horrible. I used to think I was gonna go back, but the longer I’m down here the more unlikely I see it is to happen.
FIGHT!: Over the summer, the state of Maine decided to legalize and regulate mixed martial arts. Let me ask you as a Maine native: what would it mean to fight in your home state?
Brown: That would be so awesome. I have so many friends and family that can’t fly to Vegas, but they would be so amped to see me fight locally. And it would be fun. You wouldn’t have to do it at a huge venue. You could do a smaller venue and bring the WEC for a Wednesday night fight on Versus and they could sell it out.
FIGHT!: After experiencing the wrath of an unfriendly crowd in your last fight against Urijah Faber, do you think the WEC might owe it to you to let you fight in front of an audience that won’t boo the shit out of you?
Brown: I think I deserve it. I did it back-to-back—I had to do it when I fought Leonard Garcia (in Texas), then I did it against Urijah in Sacramento. But it’s all good. As long as the crowd’s into it and watching the fight, that’s what’s important.
FIGHT!: Living in Maine and trying to build your career, how did you get your career off the ground when the sport was illegal in your own backyard?
Brown: I was training as much as I could in Maine, but I was traveling a lot to Massachusetts. I was driving to Massachusetts two or three times a week to train, and most of my fights were in Mass. I’d bounce around to the boxing club, go wrestle at the University of Southern Maine, go do jiu-jitsu. There was no MMA up there, so I really just worked on all the pieces. Then I’d have to go to Massachusetts to really do MMA and compete.
FIGHT!: So what were you driving when you were getting ready for your first MMA fight in April 2001?
Brown: I had a red Ford Escort. I couldn’t tell you the year. I put over a 100,000 miles on it, then it died on me eventually. I was coming back from college—I used to commute to Vermont from Maine. It was like a four-hour drive, and it died on the trip. Whatever the problem was, it was going to be a lot more money that it was worth to fix it. I just gave it to a junkyard for like 50 bucks.
FIGHT!: What were you driving around the time of your loss to Masakazu Imanari?
Brown: I had a Nissan Sentra. That was probably the best car I ever had. It was in pretty decent shape. One day, I was taking a corner too sharp and I hit a median. I ran it over with one of my tires and just bent the frame all to hell. I brought it to my buddy (to see if he could fix it) and he said, “You’ve got to get rid of this car.” He brought it to a car auction and sold it, then put that money toward the Ford Focus I’ve got now. Before that, when I first moved down to ATT around 2005, I was down there for about a year without a car. I lived like a mile from the gym and I would just walk there. Then halfway through the year, (Ricardo) Liborio gave me his old bicycle, like a mountain bike. It was a Mongoose. But it wasn’t a fancy one—it was like a Walt-Mart Mongoose.
FIGHT!: So tell me a bit about the Ford Focus you’re driving now.
Brown: It’s nice, dude. I’ve had it for at least two years and it’s only got like 80,000 miles on it, so it’s in great shape. But the key’s stuck in the ignition and won’t come out, the back doors don’t lock—it’s got a lot of weird electrical problems like that. It was looking really ghetto too because I lost a hubcap, so I was driving around with three hubcaps. I just bought some new ones at Walt-Mart a week ago for $30. It looks like a brand new car with fresh hubcaps (laughs)—it looks pimp.
FIGHT!: Would you ever plan on splurging on a new ride?
Brown: You know what, the general manager at American Top Team is trying to work on a deal with a car dealership where they’d give me a lease. If that doesn’t go through, I’m still not buying a new car: I’m gonna keep rockin’ the Ford Focus…As long as it’s reliable, I don’t care about driving around in a Hummer or a Range Rover or something. I don’t give a shit about that.
FIGHT!: Is there a car at the dealership that you’ve had an eye on?
Brown: I’ve heard it could be an Audi, but I’m not going to pick something out. I’ve never had a nice car. But whatever, it’d be cool to have something nice. Actually, I told one of my best friends about it and he said, “That’d be kind of weird. I couldn’t see you in a nice car, it doesn’t seem right.” (laughs) And I think he’s right, me getting out of a nicer car would look awkward…I won’t know how to shut it down properly or something; I know I’ll screw it up somehow. Maybe if I get a nice car, I’ll just take one of the hubcaps off and leave it in the garage. (laughs) That way at least it looks a little ghetto. Take the hubcaps off and maybe put a crack in the windshield or something…Bend the attena, that’s always nice. And never wash it ever—that’s retarded. It’s a waste of time, energy, and money.