From training with former UFC flyweight champion Nicco Montano to running her own gym, Amber Brown has kept busy in her time away from the cage. Now, she’s ready to work her way to the top, starting with Invicta FC 33 and Alesha Zappitella.
When Amber Brown returns to the Invicta FC cage next month, it will have been just over a year since the atomweight last fought. A victory over Tessa Simpson at Invicta FC 26 last December saw her exit the fight without any serious harm. But some training camp injuries have kept her on the shelf. Now, she’s looking to get the ball rolling again at Invicta FC 33, where she takes on Alesha Zappitella, looking to make it two straight wins at 105lbs in Invicta.
Speaking to Cageside Press, Brown admitted that “it has been a rough year. I’ve been kind of coming off a couple of injuries.” The New Mexico-based fighter kept that under her hat, however, admitting “I’ve been kind of quiet about it. I didn’t really make it too known and all public.” Instead, she focused on making sure she was all healed up from a torn calf muscle, and other setbacks. A string of injuries, really.
“All year since February,” she told us, adding “it wasn’t anything from my last fight, I didn’t come out of my fight with any bangs or bruises or anything like that. It was from training.” Back in fighting shape, meanwhile, her pending scrap comes at just the right time. “It was just perfect timing, because I didn’t really push for a fight, Invicta hadn’t contacted me to get on a card.”
She’s been busy training despite her health issues, mind you, returning to her original gym, Fit NHB in Albuquerque, and opening her own boxing gym with her husband. Training has been “going great,” she told us, adding that “I’m feeling really good, especially coming off the injuries and stuff. I started a new strength and conditioning [regimen] over at the performance ranch. They’re all about injury prevention and just real functional training. It’s going really good as far as that. Everything’s just coming together perfectly.”
Against Zappitella, Amber Brown (7-4) is facing a fighter with less cage time, but who is undefeated, an up-and-comer in the division. Brown expects her “to be pretty good, well rounded, even better than that last fight, because everybody does get better after each fight, I would hope. I expect her to try to come out and wrestle, push against the cage.” And to try to apply a lot of pressure.
Anticipating an action-packed affair, Brown told us that “I expect a real fast-paced fifteen minute war.”
To prepare, “I’ve really just been working on my footwork, just stuffing her takedowns,” Brown said. “Because I really just see her coming out, trying to take me to the ground or pinning me up against the fence. That’s mostly what I’ve seen from her. I haven’t really tried to study too too much of her. But I do like to visualize and go through scenarios.”
“If it does get to the ground— I’m sure it will get to the ground, and if she does take me down, just get the heck up,” she added. There’s no plan to fight off her back for too long.
Regardless, “if it stays standing, if it goes to the ground, I’ve been working my striking, my wrestling, my jits, I’ve been working everything. So it’s going to be a good fight.”
2017 saw the introduction of the flyweight division to the UFC (and it’s worth noting that Bellator beat them to the punch on that front). Could big things lie ahead for the 105lb weight class? Brown feels they could.
“I feel like they’re trying to build the atomwieght division, I see good things coming in the near future. I don’t really know exactly what’s going to be happening. But I feel like the atomweight division is growing, and people are starting to realize that the little people, we bring it too.”
Without a doubt. Michelle Waterson, who now fights at strawweight in the UFC, once held the atomweight title in Invicta. Jinh Yu Frey, who currently sits atop the division, has also seen her profile grow. “I’m looking forward to the future,” Brown told us.
Which will hopefully include a 105 division in the UFC, she said. “I don’t see why they would only have a couple [women’s divisions]. I know they’re still trying to establish all the weight classes, with 145, 125. But I do feel they would get the atomweights eventually.”
Of course, nothing in life or fighting is certain. Just ask the men’s flyweights in the UFC. Asked if that situation scares her at all, Brown admitted that “it kind of does. The UFC is getting a little sketchy I guess you could say. But it is kind of scary, people that are over here with families, thinking they have jobs, and then it’s stripped from you out of nowhere.”
Luckily she’s not banking on the UFC deal coming through tomorrow. “I’m happy with Invicta right now,” Brown said, noting that she signed a new contract after her last fight. “So I’m totally happy there, and if the UFC does open their doors, awesome.”
“I thought that was crap that the UFC just stripped her.” — Amber Brown on UFC’s treatment of Nicco Montano
There’s another reason to be wary of UFC dreams. Brown is a friend and training partner of former UFC flyweight champion Nicco Montano. Montano, of course, was stripped of the title after taking ill during her weight cut for a title defense at UFC 228. “I felt so bad for her. I was one of her main training partners for that fight,” Brown revealed. “She had been working hard. It does suck. I feel like she was almost rushed into that fight because Valentina wanted it so bad.”
Brown made it clear that Montano was not, as some claimed, delaying her return to the octagon. “It’s not like she was just sitting on that belt on the sidelines. She did have a lot of stuff going on, just being sick and having injuries too. In my opinion she was rushed into that defense, but she still took it, still was training and going through all the crap she was going through.”
Feeling that Montano could have done “really well” had she made it to the fight, she finished by saying that not only did she feel bad for Montano, but that “I thought that was crap that the UFC just stripped her.”
There’s another title fight, however, looming that Brown will have an even closer eye on. Invicta FC 33 is headlined by an atomweight title fight rematch between Jinh Yu Frey and Minna Grusander. The pair met once before, with Frey earning a unanimous decision win. “Personally, in my opinion I feel like it should have went the other way,” Brown said of the pair’s first fight.
“I feel like it was four rounds to one against Jinh,” she said. But she understands the need for the rematch, given how close the first fight was. After all, “that Minna girl should have taken it home that night.” Now she’s get another chance.
Brown, meanwhile, has a chance moving into 2019 to “just get back on it, get back grinding. Stay consistent fighting.”
“I want to work my way back up to the top. I feel like I could have already been there maybe, but this year just with all the injuries and stuff it’s been kind of hard,” she admitted. “But I feel like also those were maybe blessings in disguise.” Now, the goal is to “get past this fight, and work my way back up to the belt, back to the top.”
Invicta FC 33 takes place December 15 at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, MO. The event airs exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.