Travis Browne has delivered nine of his 11 wins by knockout. | AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
As Travis Browne prepares to square off against Rob Broughton at UFC 135 on Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Denver, trainer Greg Jackson describes the Hawaiian heavyweight with two words: subtle intensity.
“He reminds me of a lot of Hawaiians that I know in that he’s very laid back, but there’s an intensity to him still,” Jackson tells Sherdog.com. “He’s friendly and he can joke around and you can tease him and he’ll tease you right back and so he’s just a good guy, but there is that fighter in him, that intensity in him, that pride and that wanting to win. But it’s very subtle, where’s he’s not going in people’s faces or screaming or anything like that. There’s an intensity to him, but it’s a very subtle intensity.”
Browne (11-0-1) began training at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts in Albuquerque, N.M., for this fight. He embraces the opportunity to train at a high altitude, considering it wise preparation for a bout in the Mile High City.
“Jackson’s MMA is considered the best camp in MMA, and I never want to be stuck behind the curve,” Browne says. “I don’t want to be stuck in the dark in my career. This sport is ever evolving, and if you’re not ahead of the curve, that means you’re behind it. There’s no going with the curve. You need to be ahead, or you’re going to be stuck in the past.”
Browne, who leveled 6-foot-11 Dutchman Stefan Struve with one punch at UFC 130 in May, plans to continue training at the Alliance Training Center -- he describes it as an excellent camp -- and will have his coach from the gym, Eric Del Fierro, cornering him along with Jackson.
“I’m kind of getting the best of both worlds when it comes to the training camps and the coaches out of those two phenomenal camps” he says.
However, Browne believes Jackson brings a whole new element to the sport.
“He teaches technical aspects to the game where people don’t even know that you can be technical at them,” he says, “so it’s really a blessing to be working with him and to have this kind of fight at this point in my career.”
The 6-foot-7 Browne marvels at the way Jackson equates his mentality and that of the fighters coming out of his gym with the Chihuahuan Desert bioregion.
“Training with Jackson, there’s a whole mental edge there that you can’t get past,” he says. “If you’re out here in the high desert in Albuquerque, you look around, not in the city because there’s nicer stuff in the city, but if you go out to where it’s nature, there’s no beautiful things in this desert. You know, there’s no big trees and beautiful flowers and this and that. It’s desert. It’s sand, it’s rocks, it’s hot as hell, there’s little shrubs, tiny shrubs, but everything is tough, and, so, that’s his mentality with his fighters.
“You survive a camp here, that’s you,” Browne adds. “You’re not pretty, you’re not good looking, but you’re tough as hell and you’re going to be hard to kill, hard to stop. And that’s that mental edge that he gives all of his fighters here at Jackson’s -- is that you will not lose this fight. You can push through anything that anybody else can push through. If they can do it, you can do it; you can do it even better than them.”
To hone that mental edge, Jackson takes a group of fighters out to the sand dunes once a week -- in the middle of the day when the temperature is hottest -- to run sprints.
“It isn’t really a cardio thing; it’s more of the mental aspect, because you’re nonstop moving for all these sprints and it just sucks,” Browne says. “It’s one of those things where it’s just, oh, man, you just want it to be over and you don’t want to continue but you just keep pushing forward and mentally it’s making you stronger every time you do those. It’s more of a mental thing than anything.”
During their last sprint, participants run up the hill while carrying someone on their backs. Jackson mentioned one instance in which Browne actually ran an extra round to help out a team member in the last session.
“There was one last guy -- he wasn’t really a fighter -- running up there,” Jackson says, “and Travis came all the way back up to make sure that he finished his sprint.”
For Browne, it was all done in the spirit of teamwork.
“We’re all done and everyone’s sitting in the shade drinking their water, and I looked up and he’s still doing his sprint,” he says. “I like to be the first guy there and the last guy to leave, so if he’s not done yet, then I’m going to do an extra one for him and just show him that we’re a team and I’m there behind him.”
Jackson describes Browne as a perfectionist.
“He’s always getting on himself,” he says. “He wants to do better. Every sparring session he wants to improve. He has that intensity, for sure.”
In true fashion, Browne remains interested in either a rematch with Cheick Kongo -- a man against whom he fought to a draw at UFC 120 -- or someone who has beaten the chiseled French kickboxer.
“I want to get that blemish off my record,” Browne says. “I know it never really comes off, but I want to show people that I belong there with fighters like Kongo and the Top 10 in the UFC [heavyweight] division.”
Before any other potential matchups take place, Browne will collide with Broughton, a Wolfslair Academy representative who will enter the cage on a five-fight winning streak. The mental and physical skills he continues to hone will certainly be tested. Browne does not sell his opponent short.
“From watching his tape, I think he’s highly underrated, because he’s a tough guy. He can take punishment, he keeps moving forward and he gives punishment if you let him,” Browne says. “He’s like a guy that goes a speed of 80 the entire fight. He doesn’t slow down, but he doesn’t speed up, so he waits for guys to go 100 and then drop to 60 and he’s just grinding you out the whole entire time and that’s what makes him a tough dude and a tough fight. It’s not going to be a pretty fight. I don’t expect to look the greatest, but I expect to come out on top on this one, definitely.”
Jackson echoes those sentiments about Broughton, a former Cage Rage champion who submitted Vinicius Kappke de Queiroz in his promotional debut at UFC 120.
“He’s really tough,” Jackson says. “He’s such a tough guy. He sets a good pace, he never stops moving, he can really take a great punch and he’s real tricky, but I think his biggest asset is he’s a really good grinder. He can really take your soul away from you, so to speak. He can absorb punishment, he can give punishment back and just tire you out and take over in the fight.”
Jackson pointed out that Broughton has no glaring weaknesses, so Browne will have to work for the little advantages in the fight. Jackson’s description for the game plan for this matchup remains, as always, a well-kept secret, but he says Browne has been working on “plugging holes” and improving in what he calls structural aspects of the sport.
Perhaps due to limited depth in the division, Browne has only fought Europeans, but he believes the training available in the United States to be vastly superior.
“I think we’re the ones that are showing the rest of the world how to fight MMA,” he says. “We’re the innovators of it; we’re the ones that are taking it to the next level. There are so many people, even the Brazilians; they come up here to train for the wrestling, the striking, all that kind of good stuff. I think everything you need for MMA is in the U.S., and that’s where it’s going to be the strongest.”
Away from training, Browne spends the rest of his time with his 3- and 4-year old sons, Keawe and Kaleo.
“The way I live my life is I’m a father first,” he says. “If I’m not with my kids, I’m usually in the gym, and if I’m not in the gym, I’m usually with my kids. That’s how I love to live my life -- to be there for my boys. They definitely have priority over everything else in this world. We do all the daddy kind of stuff, going to the park or the beach or riding bikes and skateboards, building Lego stuff and doing all that kind of good stuff. That’s what I like to spend my time doing when I’m not fighting is taking care of those little boys.”
Browne expects to someday return to his native Hawaii -- he thinks it would be a great place for his boys -- but not anytime soon.
“It’s definitely somewhere that I would like to retire; I can lay on the beach and drink a beer or do whatever I want to do for the rest of my life, but, right now, I have a window of opportunity and I plan on taking full advantage of that,” he says. “It’s time to take care of business.”