Travis Browne Brushes Off Eye-Poke Controversy: ‘I’m Not a Dirty Fighter’

By Tristen Critchfield Jan 18, 2016

While Travis Browne returned to the win column on Sunday at UFC Fight Night Boston, it doesn’t rank among the Hawaiian heavyweight’s most satisfying career performances.

After two close, relatively slow-paced rounds, the 6-foot-7 Browne tagged Matt Mitrione with a right hand, slammed his opponent to the canvas and moved to mount late in the final period. From there, “Hapa” unleashed a methodical barrage of unanswered punches and elbows that eventually forced a stoppage at the 4:09 mark.

“I’m a perfectionist, so I’m not extremely happy about that fight,” Browne said at Sunday’s post-fight press conference. “It’s a win against a very unorthodox, tricky kind of guy. His movements just threw me off. He’d throw his left and duck his head. It was kind of a funky fight. It’s hard to really look good against that guy.”

Many observers were not satisfied with the outcome, either — but for a different reason. Twice in the bout Browne poked Mitrione in the eye, both times without a penalty from referee Gary Forman. The fact that Mitrione’s eye swelled grotesquely in the third frame only added to the controversy, although UFC President Dana White asserted that it was a result of a punch, not an eye poke.

“They showed it on the instant replay in slow motion,” White said. “Before he hit him the eye was fine. When he hit him, the eye just started to swell and blow up.”

The action was halted after each foul, but Mitrione clearly appeared to have difficulty seeing following each infraction, particularly the second one. Browne attributed the eye pokes largely to Mitrione’s awkward approach.

“It’s one of those things where it’s an accident. If you watch the fight, it’s not like I’m moving toward him trying to paw at him and poke his eye,” Browne said. “Every time he would jump in on me I would try to back up. [In the] third round i think I finally started closing my fist. It’s just part of the game, I guess. There’s no malicious intent behind it.”

Browne bristled when questions continued regarding the occurrences, and he disagreed with the idea that either required a deduction.

“I don’t think it was something that needed to be a point taken away,” he said. “I wasn’t moving forward. I wasn’t going after it. That’s why a referee is in there. He warned me on the last time. He’s like, ‘Next time I’m taking a point.’ I did what I could do to not let that happen again. It was an accident. I don’t know what to say.”

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