(Zachary Kaufman/The Columbian)
Rick Story has more work to do now.
Over about 30 hours last weekend in Pittsburgh, the 26-year-old Vancouver resident went from the brink of a title shot in the Ultimate Fighting Championship to just one of a group of welterweights scrambling to make it to the top.
Less than a month after a significant win over Thiago Alves, Story went to Pittsburgh as a headliner on a made-for-TV card. But a switch in opponents on the day before the fight, and a strong effort by home-state favorite Charlie Brenneman, turned a great opportunity into a disappointing setback.
Brenneman outwrestled Story to earn a win by decision, ending a six-fight win streak for Story, who is now 13-4 in professional mixed martial arts.
“Losing like that kind of takes away from the momentum I had,” Story said. “I just have to go back and work harder for my next fight.”
Brenneman scored takedowns in each round of the three five-minute rounds last Sunday and scored a decision over Story in UFC Live 4 before 7,000 fans and a Versus Network national audience.
Story went to Pittsburgh expecting to face former middleweight UFC title contender Nate Marquardt in a headline match. But he learned the afternoon before the fight during weigh-in that Marquardt would not be allowed to fight. Marquardt was then fired by UFC.
Instead, Story was matched against Brenneman, a non-contender who wasn’t supposed to be on Sunday’s main card.
Story said he didn’t consider turning down the altered fight. He felt fight-ready. In the post-event press conference, UFC president Dana White said he doesn’t expect Sunday’s loss to knock Story down significantly.
“He’s my kind of guy. The kid just beat Thiago Alves, what, three weeks ago,” White said. “I have nothing but respect for him.”
In hindsight, Story said, the change from the spotlight of a main event against a name opponent to a lesser-known opponent supported by local fans distorted his focus.
“When I look back on it, my head wasn’t really in it like it needed to be,” Story said.
A native of Spanaway, Story was a NAIA national runner-up while wrestling at Southern Oregon University. But Brenneman beat him with a couple of quick single-leg takedowns.
“He did really well,” Story said of Brenneman. “He kept good control on top.
“It’s like having a wet blanket on top of you. Whatever you try to do (from the bottom position) wears on you,” Story said.
Story noted that he was prepared for a fight featuring more kickboxing and Jiu-jitsu skills, so his wrestling skills were rusty.
“I’m in good shape, but striking shape and getting-off-the-bottom shape are different,” Story said.
After Brenneman’s second-round takedown, Story believed Brenneman was stalling. He said he was waiting for the referee to return both fighters to their feet, so he didn’t force the issue much until the final five-minute round. In that round, Story twice appeared close to choking out Brenneman, but a late reversal by Brenneman sealed the outcome.
“I should have had more urgency,” Story said. “I was still trying to get out (during the second round), but it wasn’t a priority in my mind at that point.”
Story’s priority in the next several weeks will be to focus on the Vancouver gym he and his manager Pat White own and operate. Brave Legion MMA recently re-branded the fitness and basketball segments of the facility as Inferno Fitness and Sports. The gym is at 14010 N.E. Third Court, just off of 139th Street east of Skyview High School.
Story said he will resume training next week, but won’t train with pre-fight intensity for at least a month. Story said he expects it will be at least a month before his next match is announced, and that it is likely to be at least four months away.