Fabricio Werdum believes he has the strategy needed to beat Travis Browne. | Alan Oliveira/Sherdog.com
When Fabricio Werdum became the heavyweight divison’s No. 1 contender last year, he didn’t count on Cain Velasquez being sidelined for much of 2014.
Once he learned that Velasquez would not be ready to compete until the second half of the year, Werdum instead accepted a fight against rising heavyweight star Travis Browne. The decision to accept that fight, which will take place at UFC on Fox 11 on April 19, was not easy.
"It was a bit difficult decision, because I had the opportunity to fight for the belt. But since Cain Velasquez will have to go almost a year without fighting, without entering the Octagon because of shoulder surgery -- at first I thought I'd wait,” Werdum told Sherdog.com. “I had a meeting with Dana White, he said it wouldn't be good to wait, but even so I was thinking of waiting. Then I talked to Rafael Cordeiro and with my whole team and, come to think of it, we decided to fight because it is too long [to wait].
“I am coming off a victory over [Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira], but because we did ‘TUF: Brazil,’ it has been a long time since I fought. I don't want to be fighting once a year; I think the ideal would be two to three fights per year,” he continued. “So after much conversation, we decided. After one year the fans would say: 'Why is Werdum fighting for the belt after a year off?’ And with so many things that might happen in 2014, imagine how many heavyweights will not have [the same opportunity]? And then all of a sudden I come out of nowhere, what was I waiting for? It wouldn't be right. So I'm going to do this fight with Travis Browne to show once again that I am ready for the belt."
In preparing to face Browne, Werdum said his camp will be completely different than what it would have been had Velasquez remained healthy. Browne is coming off a 2013 in which he scored knockout victories over Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett.
"Cain is a guy who likes to rely on his wrestling. He is a good striker, but he likes to get to the floor and finish the fight there. Browne likes to keep things on the feet, so I don't see him taking me down. I'm going to have to adapt the strategy,” Werdum said. “I'm going to have to put him on the ground. Of course, I won't be able to avoid the standup, but I’ve been training with Rafael Cordeiro for [almost] seven years, so I'm pretty confident in my striking.
I'm not going to have that desperation that we saw in Barnett in the last fight. I'm going to take my time. The clinch will happen, so I'm not going to freak out, but I'm going to follow a completely different strategy,” he added. “But that's the strategy.”
Werdum is well aware of the dangers that his new opponent may offer, especially after Browne handily dispatched Barnett at UFC 168.
"I don't know why Barnett went that way; he had plenty of time. Travis Browne knew he'd want to take him down, because Barnett is a wrestler. In fact, he knocked Barnett out with the knee, the elbows were just to finish,” Werdum said. “Barnett was already knocked out at that time, before the elbowing. I can see clearly that Travis Browne was already waiting for that moment; he trained that move. When Barnett came in, he was going to use the knee to knock him out. He fought very well, but Barnett fought very badly. He went crazy, like a beginner, desperate to get a takedown. I thought Browne hit on his strategy and Barnett missed completely."
Vinicius Giglio contributed to this report