TJ Brown is a UFC fighter and his passion & success in the sport is inspired by his son. Growing up with an absent father motivated him to be the best dad he could be. TJ says his son is his reason for his desire to win.
Meet TJ: mixed martial artist
TJ: I’m originally from Star City, Arkansas. It’s a little small town in Arkansas. There were either white kids or Black kids. There were not a lot of brown kids there. So one of the obstacles I had was being the only Filipino kid there. You could imagine that’d be different, but maybe that has something to do with the reason I fight now, too.
(TJ fights in a ring.)
I think life is about finding what you got and using it, right? It wasn’t so much my athletic ability that got me here than it was my will and desire to win and just my relentlessness. I guess I just have a why? I have a why. My why is very huge — being my son. I remind myself going back to a lot of those rounds — hey, he’s watching. He’s watching, so I don’t want to let him down. That’s something strong. It’s just sacrifice. It’s sacrifice for what you want, and I want to make a life for my son, and that’s what we made happen.
Producer: What kind of kid is he?
TJ: Oh man, he’s the best, dude. He’s the best. But he is a smart kid. He’s in G.T. at school. Plays baseball, plays piano as well. And he’s just a good kid. He loves to fish. That’s something me and him both have in common. Well with his words. Very sociable kid, man. He’s a great kid.
It’s tough, Kyler’s mom not being in the picture. I know my son has someone that he can count on — that’s me, and I’m out there setting a good example for him, but man, is it tough. You go train and teach private lessons and teach class. Then go pick him up from school and give him all your attention. Then the next morning, wake up, get him off. There are moments me and my son have shared along the way that made every bit of it worth it.
I never met my father. I never met him. I told myself when I did have a son, that it was very important for me, for me to be there. For him to never ask the questions I asked, like, “Where’s my dad? Why isn’t my dad here?” My son was never going to ask that. I knew I was going to step up. I just didn’t know how. I was scared. Let’s be honest, man. I was a kid raising a kid.
(TJ practices in the ring with his son)
People ask all the time, “Do you want your son to be a fighter?” My first answer is no. Anybody I love or anybody that I care about, I would not want them to fight, just purely because of the damage you take both physically and mentally. I’ve broken my hand three times. I’ve torn my knee. I’ve broken my orbital bone. That’s just to name a few. This is a very grueling sport. I just want him to find his thing and whatever his thing is, I’m going to support it. I’m going to make sure that his effort’s there, he does his best in whatever he does — whatever he does — I’m going to be there behind him.
So many lessons I’ve learned in this gym, in that ring, have applied to my life — and life is a fight, you know? If you think that this life is fair and that things are easy, you’re confused.
I finally got my UFC contract. I’ve gotten a big win. Wasn’t much longer than that I get a friend request from my dad on Facebook. He’s reaching out, wanting to meet. I’m like, man, where were you at the last 20, 30 years of my life, man? It’s funny how that works. I tell you what, he’s got to be thinking — man, I wish I had a part of his life. I wish I’d have been there. Because I got a good story, and he’s got to be thinking he missed out.
I’m nowhere near perfect, but I’m here. I’m here and I’m doing my best, and I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve learned from those mistakes, so I’m not continuing to make the same mistakes. Man, I’m doing my best — and that’s all you can do, right?