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Exclusive: Former featherweight champ Mike Brown in a must-win situation

Mike Brown weighing in at UFC Fight for the Troops 2. (Photo by Joshua Hedges, Zuffa LLC, Getty Images)

It wasn’t long ago that Mike Brown (24-8) stood atop the MMA featherweight division, taking the WEC belt from longtime champion Urijah Faber and defending it twice. But now having lost three of his last four and two in a row in the UFC, Brown knows his next fight is a must-win.

Before he can return to action, Brown has to address some medical issues, and not just the ligament injury in his hand that he suffered early on in his bout with fellow 145-pound contender Rani Yahya (16-6) on Jan. 22 at UFC: Fight for the Troops 2.

Brown’s bigger worries arose a few weeks earlier in a hard fought contest against Diego Nunes at UFC 125. Brad Pickett, a sparring partner of Brown’s at American Top Team, had previously told ProMMAnow.com that Brown’s body essentially shut down early in the Nunes bout.

“About three and a half minutes in, my body shut down and seized up,” Brown said. “I was just surviving.”

It’s something that happened earlier in Brown’s career, but he managed to fight through it and hadn’t encountered any problems in years.

Brown came up short against Nunes, losing a split decision in a hard fought three-round match. Based on the fight itself, most competitors — outside of maybe Chris Leben — wouldn’t have even considered getting back into the Octagon three weeks later.

“I was bummed out, but [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby called me three or four days later and asked me, ‘Are you in shape?’”

You would think that maybe he regrets taking the fight on such short notice, especially with the physiological issues that arose during the Nunes fight. But as it turns out, Brown stands by his decision.

“It was the right thing to do at the time,” he said. “I mean, since I lost, of course I regret it in some ways. But if I had to do it all over again, I’d do the same thing.”

In the brief time he had to get ready for Yahya, Brown figured his struggles against Nunes might have been the result of overtraining, so he limited his training regimen and only sparred on a few occasions.

“I thought I was overtraining so I didn’t do much,” Brown said. “I went into the fight thinking, okay, he’s going to tire himself out. I was literally trying to go 60 percent in the first round to let him wear himself out. Then, all the sudden my body started doing it again.”

You could hear the frustration in his voice recounting the Yahya setback. His body almost literally shut down physically, and on top of that, Brown knew that his UFC run might’ve come to an end.

“Honestly, I thought I was gone,” Brown said. “I thought I was about to get cut.”

At one point he even wondered if he might have to retire, but those around him advised him to take some time and analyze his next steps later.

To his relief, the UFC decided to keep the former champion on board. UFC officials are aware of his medical issue and will give Brown the chance to come back at full strength. Brown wants to take full advantage of his extra opportunity.

Asked if he believes he can become the featherweight champion again, Brown responded without hesitation. “I know I can,” he said.

Although Brown didn’t want to go into too much detail, he said he is working with a group of doctors to try and diagnose his medical condition. But he isn’t shy about how much is riding on his next fight.

“My next one is do or die,” Brown said. “I want to be here [in the UFC]. If I were losing to guys in the top two or three in the world, that’d be one thing. But the way things have been going now … if I do lose, I don’t want to be in this sport anymore. ”

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