In this interview, we talk to Travis Browne ahead of his upcoming bout against Gabriel Gonzaga at The Ultimate Fighter Finale. In his last fight, Browne faced current number one contender Antonio Silva. Unfortunately, he pulled his hamstring in the fight, and was subsequently knocked out. Browne gives his thoughts on the upcoming match between Silva and Cain Velasquez, on how the recent cuts have affected fighters’ mentalities, why he believes he is left out of the UFC’s top ten heavyweight rankings, and what he believes will happen in his fight with Gonzaga.
First, can you tell us what got you into MMA? Anyone specific that helped you start?
I just wanted to show my kids that they can accomplish whatever they want
, and at first it started with jiu-jitsu. I just wanted to get my black belt in jiu-jitsu, and from there it just built into MMA. I’ve got crazy tons of jiu-jitsu, but one of my buddies named Dustin tossed me into getting into jiu-jtsu. That’s how it kind of got started; it just blossomed into MMA. I sparred a guy one day, because there was no one that was big enough to spar him. I ended up doing pretty good against him.
It only took you about a year to get into the UFC. What do you credit with such a fast rise?
I really have to credit the coaches that were around me at the time, and some of them are around me now… I was also with Alliance, and all my training partners down there. It is really the people you surround yourself with that will make you better in the cage.
In the UFC rankings, you are not in the top ten at all while fighters like Stefan Struve, who you beat, and Shane Carwin, who has not fought in over a year and a half, are in the top ten. Do you feel as if the people who do the rankings are overlooking you?
Sure, Stefan Struve on quite a tear lately, so it is hard to not put the guy in there. He is probably one or two away from getting a shot at the title. Obviously, I am coming off a loss which is a little bit of a setback, but I think, I just have to come out and win this fight convincingly and put myself back on the map.
Speaking of your loss, it came out afterwards that you had torn your hamstring. I know you said the injury didn’t take away from Silva’s win, but how do you think the fight would have gone without the injury?
As an athlete and as a person, I believe that I would come out on top if I wouldn’t have suffered that injury. It is really hard to say because the injury happened, and he won. It is just one of those things where if I would have won, I would have been like “wow, that’s the closest I have ever been to losing.” He won and you can’t take that away from him. The injury happened, that’s part of life, and life isn’t fair.
Did that loss change how you look at fighting or any aspects of your training?
It just motivated me, it really did. It has put me in a better place mentally. It really helped me get myself back into the mindset of you’re not invincible. I never had that mindset, but you can get a little carried away. Sometimes you would try stuff that you wouldn’t normally do. Bottom line is after that fight it really helped me get back to some of my roots, and move forward from my loss.
Talking about roots, you mentioned earlier you started jiu-jitsu, and in your next fight you are facing Gabriel Gonzaga, who is one of the better BJJ fighters in MMA. Are you going to be comfortable if the fight hits the ground?
Definitely, especially now here at Jacksons we have arguably one of the best heavyweight submission artists in the division in Frank Mir. I get to roll with him, and we get to work on certain things. I have one of the best coaches in Greg Jackson; we have a lot to look forward to on the ground. If it goes there he is in just as much danger as I am. I can get up, I can reverse.
So, if it goes to the ground he’s going to be getting knees, I can use the cage to get up, and he’s going to be getting punched in the face. It is completely different. Gonzaga knows that. So, we will see how it goes.
Gonzaga is very similar to Silva in that he has knockout power and a great ground game. Is this almost like a reset of the match with Silva?
No, I would not necessarily say that. I think Silva is a little bit better fighter all around. Maybe not so much in his jiu-jitsu, but as an MMA fighter he is a little bit better all around. He is the next guy that is put in front of me, and he is the next guy that I have to fight.
Where do you think a win over him places you in the division?
It definitely gives me a little bit of momentum, puts me back in the top ten, and keeps moving me forward.
With all the recent cuts to the roster, and Dana White mentioning that there are more to come, do you feel that puts more pressure on the fighters to perform, or does it not make a difference to you?
For me personally, it does not make a difference. I am going to go out there, try to fight like I always do, and try to finish the fight. For some of the “safer” fighters it puts a little bit more pressure on them to do something they wouldn’t normally do, step out of their comfort zone, and maybe get caught.
So, it may even open them up for you, if you were fighting someone you view as a “safer” fighter?
Yes, I think so definitely.
What are your thoughts on the title fight between Antonio Silva and Cain Velasquez? Do you think it goes different than the first fight?
I think Antonio will definitely implement a different game plan, and Cain’s going to implement his game plan as always. The fights going to last a little bit longer, but it is going to end up with the same result unless Cain gets caught. That is the thing, anybody can get caught in this sport, but on paper it looks like Cain is going to win again.
Daniel Cormier is currently ranked number three in the division. Do you think he should fight for the belt, and what do you think about teammates fighting each other, especially when the title is on the line?
If he [Cormier] wants to stay at heavyweight and ends up fighting for the title, I think that would be great. He is definitely a contender in the heavyweight division.
As far as teammates fighting each other, I think in this sport you have to be ready to fight anybody, and if that’s your teammate then that’s your teammate. We are all working towards a certain goal, but at the same time if you have options, like Cormier has options, then I think you might want to explore those options as well. He could drop to 205 and try to fight Jon Jones for his title. Why fight your teammate when you can go fight somebody else and get a title?
If you win your next fight, and you could choose your opponent, who would you choose?
I would like the Antonio Silva fight back. It is going to be something I want until I can get it. He is the only guy that can stand there and say he can beat me. Definitely want that fight back.
Who was he your toughest opponent to date?
It is tough to say whether or not he is my toughest, because of the situation surrounding it. I have fought some tough guys. I would say he is. He beat me. So, I would have to say that.