The inside story of Hartlepool MMA fighter Robbie Brown's decision to turn pro - one year on from his Covid-19 disappointment
After 12 months of waiting, Mixed Martial Arts fighter Robbie Brown is finally set to fulfill his professional dream.
In an in-depth interview with The Mail in January, Hartlepool-born Brown opened up on how Covid-19 cruelly prevented him from taking the next step of his promising career.
The 25-year-old spoke about the difficulties he faced both physically and mentally throughout the pandemic, plus how his experienced amateur status made it a struggle to attract fights.
However, one year on from first being denied pro status, the tables have turned as Brown prepares for his opening pro fight at Doncaster Dome on Saturday, April 10.
We caught up with Brown, his trainer Andrew Fisher and Caged Steel promoter Dominic Gibbs to get the lowdown on his fight with Warren Mason next month.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” says an ecstatic Brown. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
"After turning pro fell through last year, I feel it’s been a long time coming. I just can’t wait for the fight now,”
It is quite a simple yet unique story behind how Brown’s first professional fight was arranged.
Scrolling through Facebook, Brown clocked eyes on a post from Doncaster-based MMA promotion company Caged Steel, who floated the idea of hosting an event in April.
With MMA events practically unheard of at the moment due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the interest was sky-high.
"The response was crazy,” reveals Caged Steel promoter Dominic Gibbs.
“It was great to see Robbie as one of the 100-plus fighters who replied to us in 24 hours when we put a post out asking if anyone wants to fight.
“The event was matched pretty much overnight and the post had to be deleted. I’m still getting names put forward to me now but we can’t take them because the fight card is full."
It was without hesitation that Brown registered his interest in partaking, eventually matching with Warren “The Tank” Mason.
Although trainer Andrew Fisher admits he was caught a little off guard, it is something he’s had to become used to since Robbie joined his gym a few years ago.
“I’m happy for him but Robbie needs somebody to rein him in,” Fisher laughs. “Robbie would literally go and fight Jon Jones tomorrow, and he’d think he would win!
“Even this fight in April, he wrote on Facebook saying he’d fight the guy and then I had the promoter message me and I was like ‘ah, he hasn’t done it again has he?!’
“He has the heart of a lion. He tries to spar with the heavyweights at the gym. I’m like ‘Robbie, you’re too small!’”
Brown had been stuck in a catch-22 as an amateur. His change in status represents a fresh and potentially exciting start.
His 26 fights made him one of the country’s most experienced amateurs. He was forced to drop between weight divisions just to compete.
At pro level, Brown is hopeful fights will follow more often, which will ultimately lead him to his main goal – becoming a full-time fighter.
“The professional fighters tend to get more fights than the amateur guys,” Brown says.
“Now, my fight record is back at zero, it’s not what it was before when I had around 20 plus fights on my amateur record.
“The main aim – I want to get on a big show. Hopefully, I’ll get a couple of wins, get on a big show, get my name out there and that’s when you start getting sponsors.
“Once I start getting sponsors, the money will help me train full-time. Maybe, at the end of next year, if all my fights go well, I’ll be in a position to quit my day job.”
His opponent, Warren Mason, comes as no easy task however, though Brown is taking confidence from the pair’s previous fights.
Mason lost his first pro fight to Craig Skelton, a fighter which Brown defeated at amateur level in September 2017.
Brown says: “I’ve known him (Warren) for years. I wouldn’t say I was friends with him but I’ll speak to him if I see him at the show.
“He’s really good but I’m confident I’ll beat him. My coach thinks it’s 50/50, so it’ll be a really good fight.
“He lost his first pro fight to a lad I finished in the first round at amateur level, so that’ll be in his head as well."
With his coach Andrew Fisher, Brown couldn’t be in better hands.
The Sunderland-lad competes at one of MMA’s biggest stages in Bellator, and is ranked as the sixth-best featherweight in the UK.
Fisher adds: “Robbie has been at my gym for about a year and a half and he has improved massively.
“Before he came, he had never really been coached and learned a lot of his ground game from YouTube but he has always been a tough lad.
“A lot of the time when fighters turn pro, they tend to get a favourable match-up but Robbie is getting a 50/50 fight. it’s a tough one but I feel he can definitely win."
Crowds sadly remain forbidden for the event due to Covid-19 guidelines, meaning Brown’s family and friends will be required to tune in from Caged Steel’s pay-for-view service.
But for Brown, having been forced to wait for this professional debut, it represents a huge step in the right decision, even if no one planned it this way.
Gibbs concludes: “I know it’s his pro debut and he’s coming out of a tough gym. They’ve got a good coach there and some excellent fighters.
“If his coach has said he’s ready to go pro then, I’ll take his word for it. He’s going to be a tough lad.
“Warren will definitely bring it and I’m sure Robbie will, so it’s a good fight for us."