From the moment Travis Browne signed with the UFC in 2010, he believed he was good enough to win the heavyweight title.
Not after a few fights. Not after testing himself against the division’s lower tier. Browne says that in his mind, he was ready to wear the belt immediately.
“When you fight with the UFC, you have to be ready to fight for the championship the day you sign,” Browne told ESPN.com. “If you’re in it for the right reason, you have that heart.
“You also have to have a management to help you along, because fighters are dumb. We have that mentality. We will go out there and fight anybody, even though everybody else knows we’re going to get our ass whupped.”
Browne (14-1-1) is now seven fights into his UFC career -- but he has not fought for the heavyweight title. He’s getting close to it, though. The 31-year-old faces Alistair Overeem this weekend in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 26 in Boston.
Fighting out of Albuquerque, N.M., Browne is the No. 9-ranked fighter in the division, according to ESPN.com. His only loss came in a first-round knockout against Antonio Silva last year after suffering a crippling tear to his hamstring muscle.
See what the heavyweight contender had to say leading up to this high-profile bout.
ESPN: This feels like a big fight in Boston, facing a former multi-promotional champion in Overeem.
Browne: I wouldn’t say it’s any bigger than any of my other fights. I don’t put any more pressure on myself. Some people say it’s a win-win situation for me. If I win, great -- if I lose, it was against one of the top guys. I don’t look at it that way. I have a lot to lose. If I go out and lose to Overeem, I’m back at square one. Where do I fit in the division? People are counting me out and it’s like, “Bro, we haven’t started yet. The bell hasn’t rung yet.”
ESPN: You feel like you have anything still to prove to yourself in terms of, “Can I hang with the absolute top guys like Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos?”
Browne: If you don’t believe that about yourself, you risk catching a serious ass-whupping. I don’t plan on catching those at all. I’m here to be a champ. I’m always out to prove something.
ESPN: What did you think of Overeem’s last performance, a knockout loss to Antonio Silva at UFC 156?
Browne: From what I remember of the fight, he was winning pretty handily. He was ahead both of the first two rounds. I don’t remember if he looked good or looked bad. He was winning and that’s all that really matters. He got caught, got stopped. That’s just the way things go.
ESPN: After the bout, the Nevada State Athletic Commission revealed Overeem had low testosterone levels in a post-fight drug test. Did you have any thoughts on that?
Browne: When you’re an athlete, you depend on your body -- it’s not like a freak accident with him, like, “Oh my gosh, one day he woke up and had a huge tumor that needed to be removed.” It’s pretty clear what happened with him. For me, you reap what you sow. There are consequences for your actions and he’s dealing with them. And I don’t know if he’s on [testosterone replacement therapy] now or he’s back to doing what he used to do or whatever. That doesn’t concern me. For me, steroids don’t make you a better fighter. It increases certain things that intimidate other people. I don’t care about that stuff. He’s going to do what he needs to do to feel ready for the fight.
(Note: Overeem told ESPN.com, “I’m not planning to apply for TRT and I’m not planning on applying for TRT in the future.” Massachusetts Department of Public Safety spokesperson Terrel Harris confirmed Overeem did not apply for a TRT exemption for Fight Night 26, “to the best of my knowledge.”)
ESPN: Do you feel confident in the job athletic commissions are doing to monitor performance-enhancing drugs?
Browne: I think they make it pretty easy on us [to cheat]. I think all athletic commissions need to come under one umbrella. It needs to be one big thing. One thing I actually applauded the Nevada commission on is that if you have ever been caught for steroids or any PED, you will not get any kind of TRT exemption. So a lot of fighters aren’t going to be fighting in Las Vegas anymore, you know what I mean? There are consequences for your actions. Just like we try to teach our kids every day, there are consequences. That’s the way I feel stuff like this needs to be. People need to be held accountable.
ESPN: A teammate of yours, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, is expected to eventually move to heavyweight. This might be years away, but have you discussed at all what would happen if you were holding the belt when Jones moves up?
Browne: I respect Jon and I believe he respects me. He’s kind of made comments about if I’m a contender or holding the belt, he wouldn’t make a run for it because in a way, that’s a little disrespectful. But if the cards play out and he’s fighting heavyweight and I’m holding the belt and he wants to come after it, then that’s what we’re here for. I don’t take that personally.