At this time last week, Charlie Brenneman was a preliminary card fighter with out a fight. Fast forward less than five days and Brenneman is now a welterweight contender coming off of a monumental upset over Rick Story.
If that wasn't enough of a storybook turn of events, Brenneman found out minutes before weigh-ins that he would be fighting Story only a couple hours away from his hometown of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.
Originally, Brenneman had been scheduled to fight T.J. Grant at the UFC Live on Versus 4 event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. However, Grant fell ill days before the bout and was forced to withdraw, which quite a heart breaker for the fighter looking to fight near his home in front of his family and friends.
"It was devastating," Brenneman told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. "Like you said, I came prepared. It was everything I was looking forward to and then it was all taken away from me. I went from extremely excited to pretty depressed."
Although his fight had been cancelled, Brenneman had already made the trip to Pittsburgh and planned to remain on site in hopes that another spot would open up for him to step in as a replacement. Then, Brenneman was given a slight glimmer of hope when all chances of getting a fight seemed to be gone.
"We were more or less in the dark than anything," Brenneman said. "I found out the day before weigh-ins that there was a chance that I could fight, but we didn't get anything more than that until we were at weigh-ins."
At weigh-ins, Joe Rogan announced that Nate Marquardt had been scratched from his main event fight with Story, which allowed Brenneman the opportunity to meet Story in a co-main event bout. With only slightly more than 24 hours before his fight with Story, Brenneman had very little time to prepare for an opponent he hadn't trained to compete against.
"I was just thrilled," Brenneman said. "I was thrilled to be given the opportunity. Who I was fighting was kind of second. First was just being grateful to have the chance."
Accepting a fight with one of the best fighters in the welterweight division on such short notice, not many gave Brenneman much of a chance of winning. However, Brenneman was confident that he had the strategy needed to mount the upset.
"Yeah, we did put together somewhat of a gamplan," Brenneman said. "That was just to put the pressure on him, push the pace, put him on his back and keep him there. I kind of expected to do what I did and fortunately I was able to do it."
After executing his game plan perfectly for the first two rounds, Brenneman essentially just needed to survive the third round in order to come away with a victory. However, Brenneman didn't planning on letting off of the gas as the bell rang to start the final frame.
"I definitely knew that, well I thought I knew anyway, he would have to finish me, but anytime you make the decision to coast it can come back and bite you in the butt," Brenneman said. "I really wanted to keep moving and try to stay as offensive as I could."
During Brenneman's fight, the arena almost took on the feel of a Pittsburgh Steelers game. Several fans were wearing "Spaniard Nation" shirts and chanting "Here we go Spaniard" as spin-offs of "Steelers Nation" shirts and "Here we go Steelers" chants. Also, Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin sat ringside for the action.
It was as if Pittsburgh adopted Brenneman as an honorary Steeler for the night. Having grown up a Steelers fan, the atmosphere was not lost on Brenneman. However, "The Spaniard" did recognize that he had to get the job done himself when he stepped into the cage.
"It was awesome man," Brenneman said. "It gave me the little bit of extra energy to take the fight a step further. I don't necessarily think there's a lot of home field advantage. It does affect a little bit, but I really don't think it plays that big of a role. It definitely helps the hometown guy more than it hurts the other guy."
In one of the best examples of seizing the day that MMA has ever seen, Brenneman took advantage of his opportunity to replace Marquardt in a fight against a contender like Story. Ironically, Brenneman has "Carpe Diem" tattooed across his lower back.
"That's exactly why I got the tattoo," Brenneman said. "It's a saying. It's a philosophy that I live by and thankfully I was actually able to live it that night."