Travis “Hapa” Browne faces Matt Mitrione at UFC Fight Night on Sunday in Boston’s TD Garden, and although Conor McGregor isn’t the headliner in the mostly Irish-American northeast city this time around, the local fans should be getting ready for a main card heavyweight bout that will most certainly deliver fireworks.
“Matt is tough guy,” Browne said. “He’s light on his feet and he fights relaxed. He goes for it and he’s a big dude at 6-4 and 260 pounds. He’s somebody you have to be ready for and capitalize when the opportunity presents itself.”
Browne is no small guy either. He’s 6-foot-7 and usually comes in at 255 pounds. Both of these heavyweights have one-punch knockout power, and as UFC fans saw in Browne’s last fight against Andrei Arlovski, anything can happen when those big hands are flying at each other.
“Andrei and I are still friends, we just went out there to do our jobs,” said Browne, who lost via TKO in round one after a back and forth scrap that saw both guys wobbled. “It’s nothing personal; he was able to capitalize and get the win, but our relationship hasn’t changed at all. We still talk often.”
That bout received Fight of the Night honors, but Browne isn’t all that concerned with the accolades he’s received from a losing effort.
“You can’t get a title fight coming off a loss, so I need to make myself relevant again in the title picture,” he said. “A win over anybody will put me back in the right direction, and that’s toward a title fight.”
Browne has his sights set on a title fight. He lost by way of unanimous decision against champion Fabricio Werdum back in April 2014, but the scorecards do not accurately portray just how competitive that fight was. Browne would love another crack at the Brazilian.
“I’m in this to be the best in the world,” he said.
For Browne, a move in camps from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Glendale, California has served him well. He says he feels more at home in California (he originally hails from Hawaii), and now that he’s been in Glendale a little over a year, he feels like his training is right on track.
“I feel like everybody is kind of on the same page and everyone is heading in the same direction,” he said. “I know what to expect out of the coaches and the coaches know what to expect from me.”
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What the fans can expect, like any other Browne fight, at least for his part, is a man looking for a finish. Browne has heavy hands for sure, but it was a front kick that spelled doom for Alistair Overeem. For a heavyweight, he is as agile as they come.
“Being an athletic and agile heavyweight is important because you want to be able to do everything in the third round that you do in the first, so that’s another reason to stay light,” he says. “The thing is, for heavyweights, we have to eat the right way, not to watch weight, but for performance. A lot of guys eat whatever they want and then they wonder why they don’t perform at the top level. The lighter weights don’t have a choice, they have to make a certain weight. But for us, it’s a choice and you have to have discipline. That piece of cheesecake is not going to help you in the gym.”
After fighting his friend and former training partner Arlovski, many fans have asked Browne what it is like to have to fight someone so close. He says that’s just part of the job.
“Sometimes people look at it more like a fight than competition,” he said. “People who aren’t fighters for a living get really emotional when they fight because they usually fight because they’re mad at someone or had some kind of confrontation, so it’s hard for fans to look at it as just competition. It’s like any other sport; it’s one team versus another and you have to prepare for the game.”
A father of two sons, “Hapa” doesn’t shield his children from his chosen profession. They know their dad is a famous fighter, but he doesn’t let that get to their heads.
“The way I raise my kids is to understand that this is my career and how I put a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and food on the table. The last thing I want them to do is to go out there and feel like they have special privileges just because their dad is somewhat known by fight fans. I try to keep them humble.”