'Fortunate' Charlie Brenneman talks UFC return: 'It's a good start to the year'

Copyright: Martin McNeil

"The Spaniard" will make his return to the Octagon on January 15 against Beneil Dariush at UFC Fight Night 35 in Duluth, Georgia. MMAmania.com caught up with him recently to talk about making it back to the UFC after being released over a year ago.

Some fighters never make it back to the UFC after they've been cut.

Maybe they try their hand in a smaller promotion, but they don't ever make it back to the bright lights on MMA's biggest stage. Or, they aren't willing to do whatever it takes to get back. In Charlie Brenneman's case, he started to make the push to get back almost immediately after being released, following his technical knockout loss to Kyle Noke at UFC 152.

"After I fought Noke, we figured I was going to get cut, I did and as per Joe Silva, the best way for me to get back would be to drop to 155 and get some finishes and get back in," Brenneman told MMAmania.com recently. "So I figured I'm going to still be fighting, I want to fight in the UFC, so that is what I'm going to do."

"As soon as I got cut, I just sat on it, not even for very long," he continued. "I started dropping down to 155 maybe a week after I got cut. Actually, I remember getting a bag of Oreos and milk and that being my last hurrah before I started to make the cut. I was fully prepared in my head: I said a year and a half, a year and eight months to get back. At that point, by September this year, If I wasn't back in the UFC, then I would've reevaluated my career in general and if I wanted to pursue another organization."

That was in September of 2012.

After reinventing himself at 155, the former welterweight has won four straight on the regional scene and captured the CFFC lightweight title by submitting Kyle Baker at CFFC 28 back in October; his third submission victory in his last four fights. "The Spaniard" said he was "prepared to fight two, three, maybe four more times," before deciding if it was time to give up on getting back to the UFC.

But, things were about to change for the better on New Years Day.

After an injury forced Jason High out of his upcoming UFC Fight Night 35 bout on January 15 against Beniel Dariush, Brenneman would get the call to step in on short notice (details). A moment he has been working towards since receiving his walking papers over a year ago.

"It's kind of been my whole goal since I did get cut from the UFC, was getting back," Brenneman said. "So it's good. I had to earn it and that makes it feel a little bit sweeter because it wasn't given to me, it didn't happen right away, I had to stay the course and it's been over a year. I was fully prepared to start this year and win a couple more fights and hopefully have it happen then, but it happened on January 1st. I got the call, so it's a good start to the year."

The fighter who always generates a discussion on his hair whenever he fights, hasn't had a fight since the end of October, and is taking this one against Dariush on less than two-weeks notice. Not to worry though, the veteran AMA fighter said he "always tries to prepare for these situations" and he won't have any trouble making weight.

"I've been training," he said. "Obviously with the holidays and stuff, I had a day off here and there. I kept my weight down. I don't go over 175 when I just get done with a fight or when I don't. That's a pretty normal cut."

At 155, Brenneman's ground pedigree has grown substantially from when he fought at 170.

His three submissions are evidence of that, as is pulling off the rare Peruvian neck tie finish over Jeremy Castro at CFFC 23. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) blue belt and life-long wrestler said it's largely due to moving down in weight and not having to expend a lot of energy on bigger opponents. Let's not forget Brenneman was once matched up against Anthony Johnson -- who has fought at heavyweight twice -- and was often smaller than his adversaries.

"I'm able to add a little bit more finesse on the ground, and go for these finishes and subs that I was a little bit afraid to when I was fighting at 170," Brenneman admitted. "Because I thought what if we get back up to our feet? These guys hit so hard and they're so big."

"Now I've been able to implement my subs more and I've been working with Brian McLaughlin. He trains at AMA and he's a black belt and he's just tremendous in Gracie jiu-jitsu. We've been working privates twice a week and it's really been coming to fruition, and I feel comfortable going in against a black belt and I'm not going to shy away from jiu-jitsu by any means."

Brenneman admitted to not knowing about the undefeated Assyrian before their match-up, but said he has done as much homework as he can to prepare for the undefeated BJJ black belt.

"I've seen his fights and watched a lot of his BJJ videos," he said. "Most of them are gi based. It's a very different sport, gi jiu-jitsu and MMA, so obviously I have to respect his game. I believe he has won world-class medals (Dariush has won Pan AM's at blue belt and placed in Worlds, among other medals). He definitely knows his way around the BJJ mat."

"This is a fight and my game plan is to out MMA him. That's every facet, not just stand-up and on the ground. There's all those transitions, all those spots to throw elbows, knees, trips and just take the energy out of the guy, and that is my game plan."

Win or lose against Dariush, it's a testament to the Pennsylvania fighter's character for believing in his ability, pushing to achieve a goal and working his tail off to get back to where he once was-inside the biggest promotion in MMA."

"I was fortunate in a lot of ways, and at the end of the day it turned out well."

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