Mike Brown simply smiled and waved when he entered the octagon through a corridor of verbal rage from roughly 13,000 fans who booed, jeered and insulted his mother.
Brown left 25 minutes later with those same fans' grudging respect after he knocked off Sacramento's favorite fighter for another remarkable moment in his late-blooming career.
Brown defended his WEC featherweight title Sunday night with a unanimous decision over Urijah Faber, narrowly hanging on to the belt he took from Faber seven months ago.
Evincing no intimidation in Faber's hometown, Brown credited his combination of aggression and slippery defense for his second title defense. He also realized Faber's broken right hand helped immeasurably.
"Hopefully, people will realize it's not a fluke any more," Brown said. "I don't know how anybody could doubt me after this. ... I don't think I hurt him real bad, and I don't think I almost put him to sleep, and I don't think he did that to me, either."
Brown (22-4) took the 145-pound title from Faber with a first-round stoppage last year, dramatically ending Faber's lengthy reign atop the division. Their rematch was among the biggest events in the history of the World Extreme Cagefighting, the popular lighter-weight MMA promotion owned by UFC _ and the 33-year-old Brown lived up to his surprising new spot on top of the marquee.
"I never imagined this was going to happen," Brown said. "I was fighting for fun, because I loved it, and I never imagined I could make a living doing something I loved."
Faber excelled in an excitement-filled first round, but apparently broke his hand at some point in the frame. Brown firmly stayed behind or on top of Faber for most of the next two, with Faber largely reduced to throwing elbows and slapping with his left hand.
Neither exhausted fighter got much going in the final two rounds, with Faber's fans groaning when Brown nimbly escaped several holds.
"What won me the fight was my pressure takedowns," Brown said. "I was the one applying the pressure, and that made the difference."
Two judges scored the fight 49-46 for Brown, and judge Tony Weeks had it 48-47. The Associated Press also favored Brown, 49-46.
Faber (22-3), who went to a hospital after the fight, grew up in Sacramento and graduated from nearby UC Davis, where he was a standout wrestler. When UFC bought WEC and turned it into a showcase for its lighter-weight fighters, particularly at 135 and 145 pounds, Faber emerged as its literal poster boy with his blond surfer good looks coupled with his impressive skills and victories in his first five WEC fights during 2 1/2 years as a champion.
Brown changed everything last Nov. 5 in Hollywood, Fla., when he caught Faber with a right hand and then pounded him into a stoppage after just 2:23, winning his first MMA title at 33.
For the rematch, Chuck Liddell was in an Arco Arena crowd that was rowdier and more engaged than any bunch that turned out this season to see the Sacramento Kings, who were represented by owner Gavin Maloof.
The card's most dramatic performance belonged to Brazil's Jose Aldo, who dramatically flattened Cub Swanson 8 seconds into their 145-pound bout with a gravity-defying attack. Aldo, who might be Brown's next opponent, leaped to deliver a left knee to Swanson's head, opening a gaping cut and leaving Swanson defenseless for one of the quickest stoppages in WEC/UFC history.
Jens Pulver, the former UFC lightweight champion, might have ended his MMA career in embarrassing fashion with a submission to Josh Grispi on a guillotine choke 33 seconds into the first round. Pulver, who has lost six of his last seven fights, waved goodbye to cheering fans and made a slashing motion across his throat after the bout, indicating he was finished with the sport _ although he left wiggle room afterward.
"I'm not going to be that guy that keeps saying I'm retired, but I think I just finished in the same place I started," said Pulver, who began his MMA training in Lodi, a town south of Sacramento.
Donald Cerrone, the bull-riding thrill-seeker known as "Cowboy," improved to 10-1 with a first-round submission of WEC newcomer James Krause, improving his chances for a 155-pound title rematch with Jamie Varner.