“I had heard about all the Octagon jitters, and it was everything they said it would be,” Brenneman said. “It was more than I expected. This morning when I woke up, I hadn’t been that nervous in 10 years. It hit me: ‘Wow, I’m in the UFC, the biggest organization in the world.’”
Still, he did not crumble under the pressure. Brenneman used his superior wrestling, scored with takedowns and defeated High by unanimous decision in a preliminary welterweight matchup at UFC Fight Night 21 on Wednesday at the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C. With that, he passed his first test inside the hallowed Octagon.
“That I was able to pull out the win was huge,” the once-beaten Brenneman said. “I could have fought better, but I couldn’t have asked for a better night.”
Brenneman walked into the bout as a considerable underdog in the eyes of many pundits, despite his background as a decorated collegiate wrestler. He attended Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, where he nearly achieved All-American status and punctuated his career in 2004 with a top 12 finish in nationals.
However, Brenneman entered his UFC debut with far less fanfare than High, who ousted former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Andre Galvao in the Dream welterweight grand prix semi-finals in July. Brenneman took the doubt in stride.
“I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that I’d been fighting on smaller shows against lesser-known opponents,” he said. “I didn’t put too much stock in it. I know what I’m capable of.”
Currently on a seven-fight winning streak, Brenneman attacked High with a steady diet of takedowns, knees to the body and stifling top control on the ground. All three cage-side judges sided in his favor: 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
“I would have liked to have been able to inflict more damage from the top position, but Jason has extremely explosive hips,” Brenneman said. “It was kind of a tradeoff. I didn’t want to let off the pressure.”
A 29-year-old Hollidaysburg, Pa., native, Brenneman plans to return to the gym next week to help AMA Fight Club teammate Dan Miller prep for his showdown with “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Michael Bisping at UFC 114. Though his UFC debut went according to plan, Brenneman believes he has only scratched the surface.
“I did a little bit more than I had done in my last couple fights,” Brenneman said. “That shows me I’m developing and evolving as a fighter. I’d say I’m at a four out of 10 as far as my development is concerned. I have a ton of room to improve.”