Luck is when preparation meets opportunity… Just ask Charlie Brenneman. Slated to face T.J. Grant on the undercard of UFC on Versus 4, Brennenman was devastated to learn that his opponent had been forced out of the bout at the last minute, leaving him unable to compete in front of his hometown crowd in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Still, after several weeks of training he was eager for a fight, and unaware of what fate still had in store for him, he would make the required weight limit anyway. It was then that preparation was introduced to opportunity.
Nate Marquardt, who was scheduled to square off with rapidly rising contender Rick Story in the headlining bout, was not cleared for competition by the state athletic commission, and therefore, was withdrawn from the match-up. With a huge void to fill and little time to waste, the promotion turned to Brenneman. Determined to make the most of his good fortunes, Brenneman seized the moment, utilizing a wrestling-heavy strategy to push the pace and ultimately outwork Story over the course of their 15-minute bout. In the end, all three judges scored the match 29-28 in favor of “The Spaniard,” awarding him the victory to cap off what UFC President Dana White has called a real life “Rocky” story.
Now, just a few months removed from what was perhaps the defining moment of his career, Brenneman will look to solidify his place among the Welterweight elite when he takes on top contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson this Saturday night at UFC on Versus 6. Here’s what “The Spaniard” had to say about the match-up, his larger than life victory in Pennsylvania, and how it feels to have everything he’s ever wanted within reach.
You’ve got Anthony Johnson this Saturday night, how are things going with your training and preparation for the fight?
Everything has been tremendous. You know, it sounds cliche’ to say I’ve had the best camp that I’ve ever had, but just with my training, I’ve branched out. I have all kinds of new input from different gyms, different schools, and it’s just been tremendous.
You’ve been with AMA Fight Club for some time now, is this still your home?
Yep, my home is AMA Fight Club and my boxing coach’s name is Mark Henry, who also trains (UFC Lightweight Champion) Frankie Edgar. I also spent a good bit of time at Renzo Gracie’s and Ricardo Almeida’s gym.
It’s been a few months since we last saw you in action taking a fairytale-esque decision victory over Rick Story at UFC on Versus 4. It was obviously a huge win for you, you took the fight on extremely short notice and won it in your hometown in front of your friends and family. Has the rush of it all began to wear off at this point, or are you still riding high heading into this weekend?
A little bit of both really. It does hit me every once and a while, what actually happened. I see the replay on Versus now and again. But, with that being said, I’m focused on my next target, and that’s Anthony Johnson. So, it was great while it lasted, but unfortunately it’s time to move on and “Rumble” is my next opponent, so that’s who I’m thinking about.
And your fight with Johnson is at UFC on Versus 6 in Washington D.C. At 3-1 in the UFC, coming off a victory over a guy that many had ranked among the top ten Welterweights in the world after he’d defeated Thiago Alves, how important is a victory here in regards to maintaining that momentum? Is it fair to say that this is the most important fight of your career?
Yea, my last fight was great, but it kind of catapulted me into the upper echelon of the Welterweight division. This fight is definitely the most important fight that I’ve had. This is where it’s real, I’m established and now the goal of getting to a title shot is realistically within my grasp. So, yea it’s extremely important that I do well out there against Anthony Johnson.
Now, obviously Johnson is a very big Welterweight, he’s proven to be a dangerous striker, and some were even surprised to see him utilize such a wrestling-heavy strategy in his unanimous decision victory over Dan Hardy. How do you feel the two of you match up and what are you expecting from him this Saturday night?
I defintely don’t expect him to have a wrestling-heavy game, but if he does I’ll welcome it with open arms. I imagine he’ll try to stay on our feet. He’s got, obviously, a height difference and he’ll probably have a couple inch reach advantage too. So, I’m guessing he’s going to try to stay away and pick me apart on my feet, and it’s going to be my job to work inside of that length.
I know that as a fighter, you try not to look to far ahead of the man in front of you. But, considering how fast everything has come together for you, have you found it difficult not to think about what could be around the corner for you if you’re victorious this weekend?
I definitely think about it, but it’s not something that I center on. Actually, just a little earlier, I was sitting in church and it occurred to me that my dreams, everything that I’ve ever wanted, it’s within my grasp. I’m being given that chance. So, it’s one of those things that I think about, and it’s real to me, but at the same time, if I don’t get past Johnson then there’s nothing for me.
And where do you think a victory over Johnson will put you in the division?
There’s a lot of guys – You’ve got Condit, BJ Penn, Nick Diaz, Ellenberger, you’ve still got Story, Hendericks, Fitch, so there’s a lot of guys that are in the mix. But, I would say it puts me at least a couple fights away from a title shot or at least contendership. You never know what’s going to happen, but as long as I keep winning, I don’t have to worry about anything.
Speaking of the division, there’s been some interesting developments as of late. Have you followed the whole Nick Diaz debacle, and if so, do you feel pulling him from the main event was the right decision by the UFC?
It’s a weird situation. I don’t understand all of the things that Diaz did wrong, but I guess there’s a list of them. One thing is that when Dana White makes a decision, he generally makes the right one. He, along with the Fertittas, have gotten the UFC to where it is today by making decisions. So, I really wouldn’t second guess anything that he says or does. And at the same time, it just goes to show you, just keep training and be at the right place at the right time and, poof, Carlos Condit got a title shot.
Right, the fight is now GSP vs. Carlos Condit. Do you think Condit could be the man to dethrone Georges?
You know, I don’t to be honest. A lot of people think he could, Georges says he could, but I really don’t. I think Georges’ wrestling-heavy style is going to win it for him. Carlos, he’s a fighter, he’s a gamer, but I just think Georges is just going to overwhelm him.
Alright Charlie. So what can fans expect to see from the “The Spaniard” this weekend? Any predictions for the bout?
My predictions is this: From the first minute until the last minute, I’m going to push him and see how far I can push him before he breaks. And if he happens to not break, then he’s the better man, but I’m going to do my best to push him to his max.
On behalf of myself and the staff at LowKick.com, I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with me, it’s been a real pleasure. Is there anything you would like to add or any sponsors you would like to mention?
I just want to thank Clinch Gear, MicroTech, BioDiagnostic Labs, Al’s Tavern, In Motion Meals, my strength coach Don Messings of No Limits Personal Training, Higher Strength Nutrition, and I.A.V.A. (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), they’ve helped me out tremendously. I just want to thank all of those people, and please check out my website, Charlie-Brenneman.com. And also follow me on Twitter @SpaniardMMA.