Hartlepool MMA fighter Robbie Brown opens up on his professional dream and how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted him
The year 2020 provided many challenges and for amateur Mixed Martial Arts fighter Robbie Brown, it brought his professional ambitions to a halt.
Hartlepool-born Brown, 25, has fought regularly as an amateur since 2015 and was gearing up to take the next big step of his career.
His victory over James Oliver early last year at On Top 23 was poised to be his last MMA fight as an amateur. His professional status was all-but sealed, until Covid-19 came along.
“I was supposed to be turning pro after my fight in February,” Brown tells the Mail. “We had it scheduled for April but it got cancelled because of Covid.
“I wasn’t training properly, so we agreed to do another amateur fight. I got beat but my opponent was really good to be fair.
“I’ll maybe have one more amateur fight if I can get it this year and then hopefully go pro but that is dependent on Covid.”
Brown’s dedication and passion for MMA were evident from the very start.
With no MMA gyms in the Hartlepool area, Brown trained at a local kickboxing gym and watched YouTube to learn the basics of MMA, all while throwing himself at the deep end with fights.
“I used to train in Hartlepool’s Closed Combat Arena. I wanted to fight in MMA but there were no local MMA gyms.
“At the time, with me being too young, I couldn't drive and I never got the train, so I just fought in MMA as a kickboxer.
“I began watching videos on YouTube about MMA, learning more about the ground game whilst taking on fights.
“I started winning a couple but I lost a lot as well, but those are ones I probably could have won if I was training at an actual MMA gym.”
Brown transitioned to an MMA gym at the first opportunity. He now trains at TFT in Seaham, working closely alongside fellow Poolie Paul Hartburn
Brown usually trains once a day, Monday to Friday. In the build-up to a fight - fight camp – Brown ramps it up to two sessions a day, all while balancing his full-time job as a labourer.
At present, national lockdown restrictions allow Brown to go to work but any access to gyms are forbidden.
Prior to the pandemic, Brown had already been stuck in a bit of a catch-22 situation.
With 26 fights under his belt, his experienced amateur status, coupled with the fact that his weight division Bantamweight isn’t well-stocked anyway, makes it hard to attract fights.
To put that into perspective, Brown accepted a fight with Kai Richmond in November 2019, somebody who was 16lbs heavier than his fight weight, just simply so he could compete.
Adding a national health crisis into the mix has left Brown struggling for motivation. Since the first lockdown in March, Brown has taken to the cage just once.
“We fight people from all over the UK, some have tougher restrictions than others, so there’s a limited number of fighters.
“There aren't many fighters at my weight anyway, so it was already hard to get a fight. Now, with Covid, it’s even harder because of the restrictions and not being able to train.
“We can't train properly when the gyms are open. We can only do limited stuff. It’s not ideal to be fighting under those conditions but when fights come up, it's difficult not to take them.
“I’ve gone from training basically every day to every now and again, just doing enough to keep myself ticking over.
“I started running but that’s slowed down. Covid, in general, is making me sick of everything. It makes you lose a lot of motivation.
“When you get a fight, you start upping your training then four weeks before, it gets cancelled. You’ve dieted, spent a lot of money on training and supplements - it all just goes to waste.”
Despite the hard struggles, both mentally and financially, Brown won’t be deterred and is hopeful of turning pro by the end of the year, Covid pending.
To coincide with his switch into the pro game, Brown is making plans to quit his day job and focus on MMA full-time.
But before all that, Brown has set his sights on ending his amateur career on a high – and one competition in particular.
The IMMAF World Championships are held every year in different countries across the globe, presenting fighters with the opportunity to display their skill set on one of the biggest stages in amateur MMA.
Indeed, Brown was invited to trial with Team Great Britain ahead of the 2020 edition, but you’ll need no guesses as to why that didn’t come to fruition.
“I’d like to end the amateur game on a win, just for my own peace of mind because I would like to end on a high.
“I was invited to trials last year (IMMAF) but Covid cancelled that as well. It is definitely something I’d be interested in.
“It'd be a great experience because it’s usually hosted overseas. The last one was in Italy but they do it in Australia as well.
“It’d be a great opportunity to fight abroad, which has always been a dream.
“Next year, I’ll be in a position to take a year or two off work, so I’m going to have a good crack at MMA full-time.
“I’ll train three times a day and try and hopefully get some sponsors to keep me going and just see where it takes me.”