There is an ingrained resilience to Matt Brown.
Whether it's the blue-collar work ethic born from his salt-of-the-earth upbringing in the Midwest or the inner toughness that has emerged throughout his career in the fight game, the 34-year-old Columbus, Ohio, native has a natural tendency to plant his feet and lean into the adversity he faces. It is a trait foreign to some, but for Brown, it is the key to his success inside and outside of the Octagon.
His natural grit and determination made him a tough customer competing on the sport's biggest stage, but consistency issues made gaining his traction a difficult task. That said, The Immortal bounced back from the roughest spell of his professional career—a skid where he found victory only once in a five-fight run—to put together a winning streak that would take him from the edge of obscurity in the welterweight fold to the elite tier of the 170-pound division.
His seven-fight run of success would come to a halt against future champion Robbie Lawler at UFC on Fox 12 last July, but it was the type of spirited performance that didn't cost Brown any ground in the grand scheme of things. Suddenly, it seemed that fight fans and UFC brass alike had come to recognize the show-stopping brutality his hard-charging style was capable of producing.
That is good news for Brown because bringing the ruckus is what he does best.
"It's awesome to know people appreciate the way I fight, but I just try to go in there and do the best I can," Brown told Bleacher Report. "It's cool anytime you hear positive things back from the fans. That's always great when they are excited to watch you fight. It's a great feeling to have."
With Brown maintaining solid momentum in the welterweight ranks, the UFC made his next fight a main event slot against Tarec Saffiedine at Fight Night 60 in Broomfield, Colorado. As things would play out, Sponge was forced to withdraw due to injury, leaving Brown without an opponent several weeks out from the fight.
The strange tides would keep rolling through the divisional hierarchy as former champion Johny Hendricks was pulled from his projected trilogy bout with his American Top Team Rival and tabbed to face Brown at UFC 185 in Dallas on March 14.
While the new matchup pushed Brown's dance ticket back several weeks, it also produced a much higher-profile opponent for him to face. Bigg Rigg is coming fresh off a split-decision loss to Lawler at UFC 181 back in December, which could make a victory over the former two-time NCAA Division I national champion wrestler a moment that changes Brown's career.
Yet, Brown has never been one to stack added pressure on himself, and he is simply eager to get out there and mix it up with the heavy-handed slugger on Saturday night.
"I just take it one day at a time, man," Brown said. "I don't put too much pressure on myself. Maybe I get a title shot with a win and maybe I don't. I have to worry about Johny [Hendricks] first. He's a super tough guy and one of the best in the world. The only thing I'm thinking about is being completely ready so that I can perform the best I can come fight night and maybe I beat him.
"You have to maintain the same motivation throughout," he added in regard to the opponent change and the increased amount of risk and reward at UFC 185. "You can't let the opponent change the way you are motivated. You can't take anything for granted in this sport. Some guy who is not ranked you've never heard of could come in and knock you out. You have to be ready for anything at anytime from every opponent you may face. I try to stay on point all the time and always be ready.
"I really don't know what is going to happen in this fight. I never try to expect anything from any fight I'm going into because who knows what will happen? I'm going to go in there and push the fight as hard as I can, push myself as hard as I can and hopefully come out with the W."
In addition to his bout against Hendricks being an opportunity for the welterweight wrecking machine to once again spark his climb toward a title shot, the trip to Dallas will also serve to bring Brown from the depths of what has been an unforgiving winter in his native Ohio. "The Big D" has proved to be a home for enthusiastic fight fans who turn out in droves every time the Octagon rolls through the Texas metropolis.
Those elements, and the expectations for a barnburner shootout between two of the top fighters at 170 pounds, have helped to make UFC 185 one of the biggest events of 2015. And Brown will be looking to put everything he has on the line against the former champion.
"This winter has been crazy," Brown said. "It's been odd for me because even when it's cold outside I still do my workouts outside because I love to be outdoors, but this winter has been insane. I haven't really been able to get out as much, but I don't let those things affect me. I don't let it affect the way I'm going to live my life. I don't let it affect the way I'm going to train. I'm gonna go out there and bust my ass either way. I'm always going to give it all I got."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.