TJ Brown isn’t thinking about results that much these days. Sure, he wants to win and intends on doing so on Saturday when he battles featherweight veteran Darren Elkins. But more important than whose hand gets raised at the UFC is the reality that if he performs to his potential, the wins and everything that comes along with them will follow.
“I think things are really coming together,” said Brown, who is coming off a pair of fights against Erik Silva and Bill Algeo that have netted him two bonuses. And he’d like another one this weekend.
“Wouldn't it be a hell of a story if I got three bonuses in a row with this fight?” he asks. “But a lot of things have come together. I'm on my fourth, going on fifth, month sober. I haven't had a drink in so long and that's got a lot to do with me performing better and where my head is now. So I'm looking to put on the best performance I have yet.”
Brown has been building to this moment in the Octagon, where he’s had up and down results but always left fight fans feeling like the best was yet to come. The Silva fight last December was a start, and while he was submitted by Algeo in their April bout, it was awarded Fight of the Night honors. Then he decided to put alcohol aside and get clean – not to become a better fighter, but a better father to his 12-year-old son Kyler, who has always been his heart.
“Well, just to be real honest, there's these things called feelings,” he said when we spoke on September 27. “And, believe it or not, you got to deal with them. I was getting really good at hiding mine and not dealing with mine. And I pride myself on being this great father and I could see how I wasn't. I was beginning not to spend the time with him that I was, I wasn't being as present as I was. And not to mention my career, it's had so many up and downs. I wanted some consistency and that was a change I needed to make. And that's what I did.”
The mental and emotional benefits are clear. And Brown is feeling it in the gym, as well.
“It really has, I guess you'd say, rejuvenated me in a way,” the 33-year-old said. “I feel better. I feel like I got a few years left now and not to mention how much more mental focus I have now in my training and out of training.”
It’s made him more excited about his future in the Octagon, a future that starts when he squares off with one of the most respected fighters in the game in Elkins, who is making his 28th UFC appearance. And while Brown has a healthy amount of respect for “The Damage,” he’s not looking to stick around any longer than he has to on fight night.
“Man, I'm super excited,” said Brown. “I have nothing but respect for Elkins; he's a real OG. He's been around, and he's almost got more UFC fights than I have fights. He's been around forever, but, let's be honest, the guy has passed his prime and it's my opportunity to go out there and really show out. If I need to turn this into a dog fight, I will. But the plan is to go out there and just outclass this guy and just hit him, make him miss, and make for a good highlight.”
The confidence is evident, more than it’s ever been for the Arkansas native in the four years since he earned a UFC contract on season three of Dana White’s Contender Series. Yes, four years, but Brown hasn’t forgotten a minute of August 27, 2019, the night he submitted Dylan Lockard.
“I remember right before going out, you're in the locker room and they have the TV and it was showing clips of me and my son and different things like that,” he said. “I was super nervous, and I was like, ‘Well, too late to be nervous now, man. I've got to go in here and get this job done for my son. And he was in the crowd, too. So it was a good reminder why I was there and what I was fighting for.”
TJ Brown is back in the UFC APEX this weekend and he doesn’t need any reminders of why he’s there and what he’s fighting for. He already knows.
UFC Fight Night: Yusuff vs Barboza took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 14, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!