Charlie Brenneman: Coming Home This Sunday
By Cameron Conaway
On May 6 at 9:23pm, UFC welterweight Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman posted the following on his Facebook Wall:
“I’m coming home, I’m coming home, tell the world I’m coming home.” June 26, UFC Pittsburgh!!!
Within minutes, hundreds of fans, friends and supporters (all of whom are proud to say they are part of the “Spaniard Nation”) posted their responses and clicked “Like.” Charlie Brenneman, former Spanish teacher at Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, a hometown hero, was going to fight in the world’s premier MMA organization, at a venue only a short drive from where he grew up, in a state that fully legalized professional MMA just two years ago.
When Charlie said he was coming home, everybody knew what he meant because, in reality, he’s never left. Unlike many fighters who pack up, move to live near an elite gym and rarely return while in pursuit of their MMA dream, Charlie, despite traveling and training all over the country, most notably and consistently at the AMA Fight Club in New Jersey, has maintained a fierce allegiance to his small-town base. It’s a base growing by the minute. It’s a base that’ll be in full display this Sunday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Charlie is sponsored by Sheetz (the local gas station/convenience store) and recently posted a video when he got his latest tattoo at the local tattoo shop, Custom Skin Art. He heads to the local grocery stores for charity events and signings, and swings by local MMA gyms to give seminars and train. His t-shirts for sale are the colors black and gold (as central Pennsylvanians are die-hard Steelers fans). In short, nobody will ever need to tell Charlie to “remember his roots.” His roots sustain him. They are his lifeblood.
FCF: Charlie, how’s the training camp been going? Who have you been working the most with and what do they help add to your game?
CB: Training has been great. At this point in my athletic career, I’ve been able to plan out pretty efficiently my training, so as to peak at the right time. My coaches (Mike Constantino at AMA Fightclub and Boxing Coach Mark Henry) have done a great job at sharpening my skills. My grappling is only getting better and my standup is a constant work in progress. I am improving at everything, but I’ll never forget what I am, a wrestler.
FCF: Your UFC debut was a decision victory over the tough Jason “The Kansas City Bandit” High on March 31, 2010. Tell us some specifics about how you’ve improved since then in regards to your striking, grappling and conditioning.
CB: I credit a lot of my overall fight game to my head trainer Mike Constantino. He has a great knack for the game, and his training sessions are great. Also, I started training standup w/ Mark Henry; Mark also coaches Frankie Edgar and many of Ricardo Almeida’s guys. He has done a great job of teaching me movement and mechanics. Many days, I hardly even broke a sweat w/ him; it was just basic movements and repetition. In terms of conditioning, my strength coach Don Messing (No Limits PT) and I have worked together to form a great training regimen. I’m somewhat hard to please, and Don is always looking to keep it fresh and efficient w/ my training. When someone says “AMA Fightclub” everyone thinks of the Miller Bros., however, we have a great team of loyal guys like Andy Main, Billy Williams, Mike Medrano, Chris Wing and many others who are always pushing me. They could care less if I’m a “UFC fighter,” they are there to whoop up on me!
FCF: T.J. Grant went the distance with Ricardo Almeida and holds a decision win over Ryo Chonan. After studying his previous fights, what strengths does he bring to the table?
CB: He’s a scrapper. If you look at his fight with Johny Hendricks, he was at his best. I’m taking his abilities to be at that level on June 26. He brings it, doesn’t shy away from anything, utilizes every facet of the game, is slick off his back; I could go on. That being said, I know what I’m good at, and I truly believe there is no one who can stop my game if I perform to my abilities.
FCF: Of course, your sole focus is on getting through T.J. Grant, but tell us what it means to be fighting for the UFC in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
CB: Like the song says, “I’m coming home.” It means the world to me to perform in my home state in the premier MMA organization in the world, the UFC. I left my job to pursue a dream; I achieved it, and now I want to share it w/ everyone who has supported me from day one. I owe it to them to put on a show come June 26, and I will do just that.
Cameron Conaway is a former MMA fighter turned award-winning poet and writer