Matt Brown talks concerns Alexander Volkanovski returned too soon after knockout based on his own experiences

Alexander Volkanovski hadn’t experienced a knockout loss since very early in his career, but that changed once he was floored in back-to-back fights against Islam Makhachev and Ilia Topuria.

The first knockout came via head kick when Volkanovski accepted a short-notice opportunity to face Makhachev this past October. Four months later, Volkanovski suffered a similar fate when Topuria blasted him with punches to put him down with a second-round knockout that cost him the UFC featherweight title.

In the wake of those losses, concerns have been raised that perhaps Volkanovski returned too soon after the first knockout loss, and that played at least some part in his second straight defeat. Anything is possible, but UFC legend Matt Brown says there’s no definitive way to just point the finger at the time off between fights and blame that as the culprit behind Volkanovski’s knockout losses.

“I think it’s very independent, very specific to each person,” Brown said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “I don’t think you can make a broad statement saying that is the problem. Because it’s more mental than it is physical in my opinion. I’ve had concussions before and I’ve been knocked out once.

“When I got knocked out, I came back and I was fine. But when I got concussed in a fight, I didn’t get knocked out but I was concussed, I was having serious problems for weeks after, maybe months after. There was serious problems. Vertigo, falling over, slurred speech. I would be speaking and just stop and not know what I was talking about. Crazy things like that.”

Brown has only suffered one real knockout during his career — a 2016 loss to Donald Cerrone when he was hit with a head kick in the third round. Meanwhile, Brown revealed that his concussion actually came during a fight with ex-UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks, in a 2015 fight where he was largely just out-wrestled for three rounds.

It was during one of the takedowns that Brown’s head hit the canvas, and it left him dazed and confused in the fight. Afterward, he was diagnosed with a concussion, and that freak occurrence led to far more physical problems than anything he faced from the knockout in his Cerrone fight.

“I got knocked out once and that was by ‘Cowboy’ [Donald Cerrone], and I came back with no problem,” Brown explained. “But mentally, it was harder to come back from the knockout. That’s why I say I don’t know if you can necessarily make that broad statement, because if [Volkanovski] was mentally OK with it, then I don’t think it probably played a role. That hurts. You got f****** knocked out in front of millions of people, you had all these expectations in your head and then you get knocked out. That can play a mental role in your training. Maybe you’re questioning yourself a little bit, maybe you’re a little bit safer.

“When I got concussed, coming back from that wasn’t that hard. I had to do the recovery. It was hard dealing with the fact that I got concussed and there’s a strong possibility that I haven’t been the same since. Just because we believe that we’re recovered, there’s a chance that there are underlying effects that are causing problems, potentially for the rest of your life that you don’t even know about.”

For all the science available on concussions, there are still a lot of unknowns related to brain trauma, and there’s no exact right or wrong way to recover from it.

Brown says in his case, he worked with doctors near his home in Ohio and they recommended one kind of treatment, and then he was offered a completely different alternative when dealing with a separate group of physicians in Colorado.

When he finally started feeling like himself again, Brown had no issues getting back in the gym and preparing for another fight, but he faced a different kind of struggle after his knockout loss.

“When I got concussed, I was able to come back from that mentally easily,” Brown said. “When I got knocked out, that was a mental hurdle to come back from. I had never been knocked out before and Cowboy’s ass happened to f****** knock me out in a really brutal, vicious manner.

“I see that highlight every now and then and I’m like, it looks f****** bad. That mental hurdle, that’s maybe a small little thing that’s a part of it.”

As far as Volkanovski’s future, he’s once again facing calls for an extended break before his next bout, but Brown knows that just sitting out for six months or even a year won’t necessarily solve the problem.

Physically, Volkanovski may get cleared much sooner, but Brown can’t say how long it may take him to move past the turmoil in his own head after suffering two knockouts in a row.

Brown knows from his own personal experience what he did to get past the knockout loss, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all cure for anybody in the same situation.

“I could tell you my personal way I got over it,” Brown said. “The way that I looked at fighting was a little bit different, and I started going this way a little bit before but that [knockout loss] really set it in stone. I stopped looking at each performance as the end of the world. Each performance was, that’s all that f******* matters. And the way I look at it myself now, I’m a martial artist for life and I’m going to be on the mats until the day that I die. This is what I do. The fight itself is a test of my martial arts on that day.

“I started looking at it afterward, if I fought him 10 minutes before that, an hour before that, the day before, whatever, maybe I would have knocked him out. All the fight is, a picture in time, whereas I’m a martial artist for life. This is just a picture in time where my martial art was that day. Sort of what Bruce Lee used to talk about, there’s no defeat until you accept defeat. It’s just a moment in time.”

There’s no telling how long it will take for Volkanovski to get mentally and physically ready to fight again.

That’s why Brown won’t try to advise him to take a certain amount of time off, because there’s just no way to know for certain what will work for Volkanovski.

“To give advice to someone else, I think you need to know their own personal journey and the way their mind works and what makes them tick,” Brown said. “Why are they doing this to start with? What’s their motivation? What’s their goal? For some people, that goal is money — like Floyd Mayweather, his goal was money and he did it. For Conor [McGregor], it was probably money.

“For others like Jim Miller, I think he’s a martial artist. He’s not in there specifically for money. The point is there’s a lot of different personalities and you’ve got to understand who they are, what makes them tick, and things like that.”

Listen to new episodes of The Fighter vs. The Writer every Tuesday with audio only versions of the podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and iHeartRadio

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