You would think that being a talented fighter is a positive thing. And in theory it is. But at certain levels of mixed martial arts and boxing, being good is as much of a curse as it is a blessing, and few know that better than Brian Houston, who was ready to end his promising combat sports career because of that little curse no one tells you about when you first put the gloves on.
“At the beginning of this year, I was about to quit,” he said. “If I don’t make it to the UFC or don’t pick up more fights, I’m gonna quit. I’m 32, I wanted a family, I wanted to get a job, a 401k. (Laughs) I wanted to be a functioning member of society, and this wasn’t doing it. I was happy with being good, but if you’re not in the UFC, being good hurts you because no one wants to fight you.”
Unbeaten in four pro MMA fights (4-0) and two pro boxing matches (1-0-1), the former Hampton University college football player (and indoor football player for the Omaha Beef) found out pretty quick that he was able to get a lot of people to agree to fights with him. The problem was that they just had an issue showing up to those fights. And when the clock passes 30 and you still have less than ten fights, that’s trouble.
“I get a fight every six months, and that’s with boxing,” laughed Houston, who can afford to look back and smile now that he was signed to a UFC contract that begins with a Wednesday fight against Derek Brunson in Kentucky. Now, when someone gets presented with a fight against Brian Houston, odds are that they’re taking it. And showing up.
“That’s the great thing about being in the UFC now,” he said. “I’m really not gonna get guys that won’t take a fight against me. Everybody’s got confidence and everybody’s got pride, so I don’t worry about that anymore.”
Now all the Riverdale, Georgia native needs to worry about is being ready for the UFC shark tank with only four pro fights. But when you ask him about this, he’s not worried in the least about that aspect of things.
“My management wouldn’t have taken the fight if I wasn’t ready,” said Houston, who also placed third in the 2011 National Golden Gloves tournament. “I’ve only got four fights in MMA, but I’ve got a lot of high-level experience in other forms. Wrestling, as far as high school, I’ve beaten national-level guys, I’ve got national and world-level boxing, national-level Thai boxing. So I’ve got that (experience) in just about everything except for jiu-jitsu, but the guys I that I go with on an everyday basis are heavyweight Pan Am champs.”
Those guys are his teammates at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, and when it comes to getting ready for UFC-level competition, Houston is certainly getting put to the test.
“If I’m gonna fight against these type of guys (in the UFC), I’ve got to have that type of training with those type of guys,” he said. “You’ve got to get to a place where you get your butt kicked.”
Houston is quick to point out that he does hold his own at ATT and that those butt-kickings aren’t a regular occurrence, but even if they were, that’s what a fighter needs to get ready to perform on the big stage. As the saying goes, you want your training to be harder than your fight, and Houston has been getting that good work in Florida.
“You have so many guys to push you,” he said. “I can name drop all day, let’s put it that way. (Laughs) There’s always someone to go against, and it raised my level. I had good guys in Omaha (where he lives and used to train), but we only have a core, and those guys have jobs and can’t always be there, so it’s not that easy for me to get that type of training every day, day in and day out. Here, I never had so many tough guys to go against all the time, and you have everything in one gym. I’m happy where I’m at, and I’m appreciative.”
All that’s left is the fight, and after seeing a UFC 164 bout in August get scrapped, Houston is champing at the bit to finally get this whole UFC journey started.
“I’m ready to fight now,” he said. “I’m really tired of training (Laughs) and I’m ready to go in there and get it. I’m driven by competition. That’s why I fight.”
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You Can't Duck Brian Houston Anymore
"I’m ready to go in there and get it. I’m driven by competition. That’s why I fight." - Brian Houston