Evan Sykes/ The Easterner
By Al Stover
Hidden on the second floor of the the sports pavilion, posters of professional boxers are scattered all over the walls while the sound of gloved fists pounding on punching bags echoes across the hallway.
While sweaty students wrap up their hands before putting on the gloves, Matt Brown puts down his gloves and begins practice with some conditioning exercises.
Brown, the EWU boxing club president, is taking a new approach to training. He is bringing the experience and techniques he learned from mixed martial arts (MMA) and applying it to train members of the boxing club.
“The previous president is Chris [Holand],” Brown said. “He had to work on his Ph.D. I’ve trained with him and he cornered my fight in Coeur d’Alene, [Idaho] and recommended me to Rick Scott.”
Brown’s record is 4-1, his first loss came on Apr. 28 2011, via arm-bar submission.
“For the fight, I dropped down to 160 [lbs],” Brown said. “I usually walk at 185. I was extremely sick for the fight. As an advanced individual training, I fought down in Oklahoma. I fought for a local club, got my confidence back and won my next [fight]. Now, I’ve got two more fights lined up.”
Brown was selected as boxing club president because of his four years of experience in MMA. He is the member of the National Guard and had trained in kickboxing and muay thai
Brown has a mix of emotions before the fight begins. First, he’s all pumped up, then he’s completely calm when he steps into the cage.
“Once you hear the clicking of the door shut, there’s no one but you, the other guy and the referee,” Brown said. “They usually shine the light down, so you only see the cage and not the crowd. It’s like this isolated world where you know you’re going to fight this guy.”
According to Brown, there’s two different kinds of fighters in the cage: Fighters who get angry and fighters, like him, who remember to have fun.
“You don’t want to hurt the person for the sake of hurting them,” Brown said. “I start laughing, playing around and remember my training. There’s no stronger adrenaline rush than stepping in the cage.”
In addition to being a fighter, Brown is also a computer programmer, which began as a childhood dream of creating video games.
“I ended up working for Microsoft to save money for school and I loved it,” Brown said. “Learning a new language to speak and understand a computer, it’s like communicating with a different world.”
According to club member Bill Carlson, Brown’s approach to training was different than what he experienced in last year’s club.
“He’s bringing rules to cage fighting and techniques for that,” Carlson said. “He’s gearing us towards more actual fighting than just conditioning for boxing.”
Brendan Ren, who has been in boxing since he was five, is Brown’s vice captain. Although he does miss the focus on actual boxing, he and Brown do keep boxing techniques in the club, such as body movements, jabs and countering.
“Wednesday, there’s more cardio, we work on a lot more offense,” Ren said. “Once Friday hits, we mostly spar.”
According to Brown, the reason the boxing club is putting an emphasis towards MMA training is because of the rising popularity of the sport.
“I love boxing, but it’s on the decline,” Brown said. “It’s popular everywhere else, but it’s losing favoritism in America. More people are interested in MMA and full spectrum stand-up combat than boxing.”
Josh Strickland is a first-year member whose uncle is a fighter. As a fan of MMA and boxing, he is glad to have Brown and Ren as teachers.
“If I was doing it on my own, I wouldn’t know half as much,” Strickland said. “He has a variety of skills. If I get really good at boxing, I’ll do that. But if Matt and Brendan really want me to pursue MMA and jiu jitsu, I’ll do it with them. It depends to see what they push me to do.”
Brown is hoping to stay in the National Guard and get a job as a computer programmer or a technician while moonlighting in MMA.
“[I want to] still keep on fighting,” Brown said. “As long as I’m still good at it, I’m going to keep doing it.”
Favorite fighter: Urijah Faber
This article was published in The Easterner in January 2012.