Travis Browne entered the UFC easily enough. On an eight-fight win streak, he took on season 10 cast member of Spike TV's 'The Ultimate Fighter' James McSweeney. The 6'7" Hawaiian displayed punishing punching power and put the Brit in McSweeney away in less than a round.
Browne had gotten off on the right foot in the UFC, only to somewhat stumble in his next fight against Cheick Kongo at UFC 120. Browne's trademark crippling power was on display. He badly rocked Kongo in all three rounds as he marched forward on the man who was supposed to be the superior kickboxer. So rattled was Kongo that he grabbed Browne's shorts throughout the course of the fight to win key positional battles along the fence or to prevent being nailed with hard knees inside. The fight ended in a draw.
Browne returns to the Octagon this weekend as he takes on rising heavyweight prospect Stefan Struve at UFC 130. The bout pits two of the larger men at heavyweight against one another. Browne is 6'7" and Struve 6'11". More importantly, this bout offers Browne the opportunity to put himself into prospect status by derailing Struve's very own prospect run.
In this exclusive interview from MMA Nation on 106.7 The Fan, Browne talks about the frustrating loss to Kongo, what the nickname "Hapa" means, training with Phil Davis and Brandon Vera, preparing for Struve and why Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber hate each other.
Full transcription and audio below:
Luke: Travis, how are you sir?
Travis: Good, how are you doing.
Luke: Good man, hey are you a boxing fan, did you watch Pacquiao?
Travis: I wasn't able to catch it but I did read up on it. I heard how he did and how dominant he was. I heard he was sparring most of the fight except for the third round when he dropped him.
Luke: Are you a Pacquiao fan?
Travis: Yeah, you gotta believe in him man. Look at what he's done. He's come into the sport and pretty much dominated.
Luke: What kind of boxing do you do, you're at Alliance right?
Travis: Yup, at Alliance.
Luke: Do you guys incorporate pure boxing training? To what extent is pure boxing part of your repertoire?
Travis: At this level, you need to dissect your entire game and then also put it all together so we incorporate boxing, kick boxing, jiu jitsu, wrestling...all the separate entities and then we combine them into MMA training. But we do have days where we're just doing boxing.
Luke: Here's the thing, I like boxing as much as I like MMA, but so many fans of mixed martial arts or boxing can't stand the other sport. In your mind, why is it that fans of MMA hate boxing and vice versa?
Travis: I think people in the MMA world don't like boxing because it's not as exciting as MMA because you don't get big slams. A lot of the times you don't get a great knockout finish because boxing is more of an art form than MMA is now. I think MMA is still in its infancy stage of where it's going to be and I think boxers have been able to take their sport and seriously make it an art form. At the highest level, there are so many guys who are great boxers because they know the angles and they know how to box. MMA is still raw and exciting because you have so many different martial arts coming into the cage so right now you still get a wrestler vs a striker. I think as we start to see the sport evolve with fighters like Georges St. Pierre, Jon Jones and Frankie Edgar and basically a lot of the champs, they've really been able to mix it up. One of my favorites is Dominic Cruz, a training partner of mine. But now the thing is, people are starting to bag on those champions because they've been able to confuse their opponent and dominate them. We're not talking about these huge big knockouts but we're talking about domination and thats where I think our sport it starting to grow.
Travis: It originated with Asians and what that was, it meant that you were Half Asian and usually Half White. In Hawaii, where I'm from, I'm Hapa Haole. It's pretty much if you're mixed blood or have two different ethnicities or even more, you're considered Hapa. It really means half but now it just means mixed.
Luke: I see. Who gave it to you or is it something you've always had?
Travis: It's just something that kinda followed me around. All my aunties and uncles, I was the hapa kid growing up, half white kid so it just kinda followed me throughout my life.
Luke: Alright, so talk to me about your entrance into the mixed martial arts. You only made your pro-debut not too long ago in February of 2009, so you're still new to this game. For folks that may not know who you are or are new to you by only seeing the Cheick Kongo fight, talk to us about how you got into the sport.
Travis: Basically, I played basketball for a small college out here in California and when I was done playing college, I settled down and got a job. One day I wasn't done, I had my first kid and I just wasn't done being competitive and I wanted to show my kid that I could do whatever I put my mind to. I had offers to go overseas and play basketball but I turned it down because I wanted to stay local. So I got started in Jiu Jitsu, which was something I could be competitive at. It didn't take a team to do it like playing pickup ball which sucked cause people were horrible and it wasn't at the level I was used to playing at. So I started in Jiu Jitsu and from there took off and started sparring guys who were getting ready for fights and I was doing pretty good so I jumped in and got my feet wet.
Luke: And here you are today, in terms of the UFC, this is your first one that's a pay per view event stateside. Any new pressures about that?
Travis: No, pay per view or on cable, it really doesn't matter to me. On cable you get way more viewers than on pay per view because it's free on cable. The way I look at it, it's still a fight. The guy across from me bleeds like any other man so I just gotta go in there and do my job and get it done as quickly as possible.
Luke: Alright, I want to talk to you about the Cheick Kongo fight. It ended in a draw, it was just a weird fight man. Someone asked me to ask you this: what were your shorts made of that Kongo kept grabbing them? I know it's a facetious question but how frustrating was that? It happened in every single round.
Travis: It was shorts made of those little candies that you put on your neck, you know those necklace candies on the string. It was really frustrating at the time. If you watch the fight there's a time when I'm yelling at the ref "HE'S HOLDING MY SHORTS RIGHT NOW!" and the ref is like "no he's not", yet the camera is there and is showing that he has a handful of my shorts. There were times when I could feel it and there were other times when I couldn't. The biggest thing was that he wasn't just grabbing my shorts, he was grabbing my waistband. What that would do, any time I would try and move or maneuver off the cage, it would give him compete control. It was like he had a body lock on me just by grabbing my shorts. I was a big believer that grabbing shorts wasn't that big of a deal until that happened to me and even now I look at it like I should never have put myself in a position for that guy to grab my shorts. That won't happen again.
Luke: Did you talk to UFC management afterwards? Like, "I can't believe I got this draw, I was killing this guy. The only reason he was able to survive was because he was holding onto my shorts and my waistband." Basically, was there any more discussion about it after the fight?
Travis: No. In any fight that I go into, I don't like to complain about stuff because at the end of the day, a fight's a fight. He had to do what he had to do to survive in that fight and what's the UFC going to say? "Do you want us to overturn it?" and then I look like James McSweeny did with me when he thought I elbowed him in the back of the head when that isn't even what stopped the fight? Just move on and win your next fight and prove to everybody that you are the better man.
Luke: Alright, Stefan Struve. You're taking on him at UFC 130. A tough challenge man. The guy gets hurt, he's hard to put away and has an under rated guard. I don't know how well he uses his length. Talk to me about fighting Stefan Struve. How do you beat this kid? He's really resilient but for his size, he doesn't make best use of his length in my judgement. What are the keys to beating Stefan Struve?
Travis: Yeah, if I was him, that's something I would be focusing on for the last five to six months, is how to use my reach. For me to be able to win this fight I have to be able to get inside. If I stay out at the end of his reach, I'm playing his game. I don't think his guard's very underrated because we've seen what he's been able to do submitting people. He's able to sweep people, submit people, survive within his guard, even though he had big Christian Morecraft pounding on him for that first round. Everyone knows his guard's dangerous and we know he's a great submission artist and we know that he doesn't know how to use his reach. So for me, I have to get inside and expose where he's been exposed before, which is the heavy hands, punches, and timing. That's where I think I'll come out victorious in this fight, by making the fight go where I want it to go. Stay on the ground or stay on the feet, where ever it goes, I just have to control it.
Luke: Another guy, everyone at heavyweight is just a heavy handed striker, but Alistair Overeem, if they make the super fights between Strikeforce and the UFC, how do you think Alistair Overeem would fair against the UFC ranks?
Travis: You know, I think he's always going to be a tough guy. Look at what he's done against the last few guys that he's fought. Last guy he fought was Todd Duffee and he just dismantled him in about 19 seconds or something like that. He's always going to be a tough guy, he's a very good striker obviously, that's his background. He's got a sick ground game as well, so I think he'll do really well against the top guys in the UFC.
Luke: You brought him up earlier, Dominick Cruz. I'm going to play devils advocate here, I'm not going to say this is my opinion, I'm just going to echo what I hear from others, namely that with Dominick Cruz there is no doubt about his talent or his improvement, but he fights to win rounds, he doesn't fight to win fights. What is your response to that?
Travis: My response is what I was saying before. It's why all the champions are dominating. It's about being smart, it's a sport and at the end of the day, you have to win the game. You have to win this fight. I think that people can say that about GSP and Frankie Edgar and all these other guys who are in it to just win rounds. Those guys are the dominant fighters of today, those are the champions. Those are the guys who are taking the sport to the next level. As a fan of the sport, that's not something that I enjoy watching but it's part of it but as a fighter, I completely understand why they're doing it.
Luke: Dominick Cruz has a hell of a fight at UFC 132 against Urijah Faber. Let me ask you man, you know this guy, you're behind the scenes. How much of their beef or whatever you want to call it, is it manufactured? Is it real? Does Dominick Cruz legitimately dislike Urijah Faber?
Travis: They freaking hate each other man. It is almost comical with how much those two despise each other.
Luke: I've met them both, independently, they're both really nice dudes.
Travis: Yeah, that's the thing. I've met Urijah once or twice. Obviously I train with Dominick and I say the same exact thing, they're both really nice guys. Really easy and laid back. But for whatever reason, Dominick's pretty much been steamrolling those guys over at Urijah's gym, Benavidez and I think Scott Jorgensen came out to Alpha Male to train for Dominick. Just because Urijah caught Dom when he fought him however many years ago, they think that they have the secret. That's where the trash talk has started and has escalated since they go back and forth with the "I beat you so now I'm gonna drop down a weight class and beat you again." I think it's comical.
Luke: Two more questions and then I'll let you get outta here, I appreciate your time. Phil Davis when he took the fight against Nogueira, he had talked about some injuries. How badly was Phil injured before going into that fight?
Travis: That's something where Phil does a really good job. He's a warrior man. We all have nagging injuries going into fights and his was worse than what he was led to believe but at the end of the day, he pushed through his workouts and he got his workouts done and ultimately won the fight. But I think he was pretty banged up from that fight cause he's taken some time off to recover and get his feet under him again.
Luke: Lastly, Brandon Vera. He was cut from the UFC after the loss to Thiago Silva, only to find out that Thiago Silva had been using steroids. He was let back into the UFC. But Thiago Silva, the way he kinda fought, Jon Jones said it was disrespectful with slapping Brandon. What is Brandon's mind state now? Did the loss hurt him? Is he rejuvenated because he has another shot at the UFC? Talk to me about his state of mind these days.
Travis: He's definitely a focused fighter. He's gotten back to the gym with the intent of getting back into the octagon and show people why they believed in him a few years ago. I think that the work ethic we have at Alliance and with the champion that we have in Dominick Cruz and Phil Davis coming up. I'm undefeated. We have Joey Beltran who's always a work horse. We have Brandon Vera. All of us try and push each other to get better and honestly we have to thank all the lighter weights at our gym because they push the big guys to get better and get to the next level. But Brandon's focused and he's ready to go. He'll be ready the next time he steps in there.