At some point this week, the paths of welterweight Charlie Brenneman and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will cross. Both are scheduled to compete Saturday night at UFC 152 in Toronto -- Brenneman faces Kyle Noke on the card’s opening bout, while Jones defends against Vitor Belfort in the main event.
But it’s the encounter they are certain to have outside the cage that could prove most interesting.
Brenneman was scheduled to fight Noke on Sept. 1 at UFC 151, the same event where Jones was to headline against Dan Henderson. But the card was canceled after Jones and his handlers opted not to fight late replacement Chael Sonnen on eight days’ notice. Upon receiving the news that his fight was off, Brenneman took to Twitter and tossed a verbal jab at Jones by suggesting the champ send Brenneman a check for his rent.
“I was just walking down the street and [the tweet idea] came to me,” Brenneman told ESPN.com. “It wasn’t something I thought about in depth. But it’s certainly not something I regret.”
Brenneman isn’t about to soften his stance anytime soon. And the likelihood of running into Jones won’t alter how he feels about the champ’s decision regarding 151. Still, he doesn’t have a personal beef with Jones.
“I still feel the way I felt before,” Brenneman said. “I don’t disrespect him in anyway. If I could have his talent ... who wouldn’t want it?
“I don’t agree with what they did. It’s a tough situation, but he and his team, they made the decision they made and I’m sure they have their reasons. But if it was our team and the circumstances were the same, we would have taken the fight.”
The attention his comment attracted and the probability of running into Jones is the least of Brenneman’s concerns. He finds himself in a must-win situation Saturday night. And he won’t allow anything, especially a potentially brief face-to-face with Jones, to interfere with the task of defeating Noke in impressive fashion.
His 2½-year stint in UFC has been spotty. Brenneman has fallen into a pattern of win one, lose one. That recipe has to change if he's to maintain his spot on the promotion’s roster.
“[This fight] is pretty darn important,” said Brenneman, who is 15-4. “I wouldn’t say it’s the most important fight of my career, but it’s one of. The fact that I’m the first fight on the card, maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe it’s not. But I don’t want to take that chance.
“I’ve got to go into this fight and build some steam. I’ve been up and down and up and down; now I want to keep going up. And this is a first step.”
Brenneman enters UFC 152 looking to rebound from a first-round submission loss against Erick Silva on June 8. He was the victim of a rear-naked choke. It marked the first time Brenneman, a solid wrestler with strong defensive skills on the ground, had been submitted.
The manner in which he lost and the fact that it was his second setback in three fights has likely put Brenneman’s future in UFC at stake. While there might be some pressure on Brenneman, he has a favorable opinion of the matchup with Noke -- who will make his welterweight debut Saturday night in hopes of ending a two-fight skid.
“He’s coming down from 185 and he’s got Greg Jackson training him,” Brenneman said of Noke. “So he’s probably going to have a good game plan. But anyone’s game plan against me is to not end up on the bottom. That’s it, period.
“He's [known to get] tired. He’s gotten tired in several of his fights at 185. This will be his first cut to 170, so I’m not banking on it, but I’m going to push the pace and see if he breaks or not.”
In addition to the matchup, Brenneman feels positive about the fight taking place at a later date. It’s the one thing he can now thank Jones for.
“If anything, [the date change] is positive,” Brenneman said. “I took that fight on 4½ weeks’ notice. This gives me almost eight weeks to prepare for it.
"But when [Jones] didn’t take the fight [with Sonnen] we didn’t know what was going on. I could very easily be fighting in December. I’m one of the lucky ones.”