ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Travis Browne’s respect for Fabricio Werdum is almost as massive as Werdum himself.
Werdum, Browne allows, is “probably the best on the ground in heavyweight division.”
Between the two, who will confront each other Saturday on a UFC card in Orlando, Fla., there has been none of the vitriol that ensued earlier in the week between Tim Kennedy, Browne’s teammate at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA, and Englishman Michael Bisping. (Kennedy defeated Bisping by unanimous decision Wednesday night in Quebec City, after which the two fighters shook hands and made up.)
And yet, Browne said, Werdum must pay.
Pay for what?
Let Browne explain.
Browne lives in San Diego but comes to Albuquerque about two months before each fight. When he’s around sons Kaleo and Keawe at home in California, he said in a recent interview, total focus on his training is near-impossible.
“The thing I’ve learned about myself,” he said, “is that I’m a father first. … I would easily make an excuse not to go to practice when I had my kids. I’d pick them up from school, take them to a practice, something like that. I would skip out on my own practice just to be a dad.
“I had to remove myself from that situation during my camps in order for me to be this level of a fighter.”
Lately, Browne has performed at a high level, indeed.
After a loss by first-round TKO to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in October 2012 – Browne tore his left hamstring during the fight – the Honolulu native has needed a total of 6 minutes, 19 seconds to win his last three matches. Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett all were dispatched by first-round knockout.
Clearly, training in Albuquerque has paid off.
But the time away from his sons, Browne said, is a huge sacrifice.
“The time I spend away from my kids, providing for my kids and everything like that, that’s my goal and that’s what motivates me,” he said.
“Taking this time away from my kids, somebody has to pay for it. That’s how I look at it, is (that) my opponent needs to pay for it.”
The fight between Browne (16-1-1) and Werdum (17-5-1) shapes up as a classic matchup between a striker and a ground specialist. But Browne said he’s not afraid to go to the ground with the Brazilian jiujitsu practitioner.
“We know his strengths, we know my strengths, and we’re content to let the fight go where it goes,” Browne said. “We’re ready in any situation. It’s just being confident, and going out there and (executing) the game plan.”
The stakes grew higher Thursday when UFC President Dana White announced the Browne-Werdum winner will get a shot at heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez on a future card (no date determined) in Mexico.
BORG: Albuquerque flyweight Ray Borg, it seems, has been dealt a difficult hand for his UFC debut on Saturday’s card in Orlando.
Fighting just 15 days after his most recent fight, an impressive victory by second-round submission over Nick Urso, he’s facing an opponent with far more professional experience. Dustin Ortiz is 12-3, Borg 6-0.
Tom Vaughn, Borg’s coach at Albuquerque’s FIT-NHB gym, said he has no qualms about the quick turnaround or Ortiz’s résumé.
“After talking with Ray first, then the coaching staff at FIT-NHB, we elected to seize the moment,” Vaughn told the Journal via email. “(Ortiz) is similar in style, but I think Ray is a little better in every department.
“We will beat this opponent in the scramble over and over and try to put him away if we can. Regardless, Ray wins this fight one way or another.”
Borg’s fight will be available for viewing online via UFC Fight Pass, on a portion of the card starting at 1:30 p.m.
CERRONE: Asked to analyze his fight Saturday in Orlando against Brazil’s Edson Barboza, Jackson-Winkeljohn featherweight Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone was succinct.
“Don’t blink,” he said.
The fight matches Barboza (13-1), a dynamic striker with nine victories by KO or TKO, against Cerrone (22-6), who has 14 victories via submission and only three by KO. But all three of Cerrone’s wins by knockout have come in his last six fights, including a dramatic, first-round stoppage (head kick) of Adriano Martins in January.
“A knockout is always what you’re looking for,” Cerrone said. “Quick finish and go get to drinking Budweiser.
“I want to give the fans what they want. I want to go out there and fight. I hope (Barbosa has) trained really hard and brings it. It should be an exciting fight.”
Cerrone’s fight is part of the main card, scheduled to start at 6 p.m. on Fox.
TICKETS ON SALE: Tickets for the June 7 UFC “Fight Night” card at Tingley Coliseum, that organization’s first show in Albuquerque, go on sale today at ticketmaster.com.
They are scaled at $50-$175, plus a service charge.