ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As if facing one Travis Browne weren’t challenging enough, Brazil’s Gabriel Gonzaga will be facing two 6-foot-7, 250-pound MMA fighters Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nev.
At least, that’s the way Browne sees it.
On Oct. 5, Browne tore a hamstring some 30 seconds into a UFC fight against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in Minneapolis. His mobility gone, the Honolulu native and part-time Albuquerque resident got nailed with a big right hand seconds later and suffered the first defeat of his career.
“The Ultimate Fighter Finale”: Uriah Faber vs. Scott Jorgensen, several other fights. TV: FX, 7 p.m.
Now, Browne says, he has two bags of tricks for Saturday – the one he and his coaches have planned for Gonzaga, and the one he never got to use against Silva.
“I’m that much more dangerous,” Browne said Wednesday in a phone interview, “because I have everything I worked on last year that I wasn’t able to show, and everything I worked on in this camp to get ready for this fight.
“There’s gonna be a lot of new tricks and new skills coming out.”
Greg Jackson, Browne’s ground coach at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts, wasn’t in on that phone call. But he would have loved the optimism expressed.
“We just needed to get (Browne) back into the swing of things, back into normalcy,” Jackson earlier this week, recalling the shock of the Silva fight. “… When you have a freak accident like that and it costs you your first loss, you really want to focus on the positive.”
Browne (13-1-1) said he has done just that – well, most of the time.
“I was kind of up an down with that,” he said. “Right after the fight, I said I can’t take anything away from Antonio’s win, and still can’t.
“Then I kind of got on my little crybaby rant a little bit: ‘Oh, if it weren’t for (the injury).’ Then I wised up and got back to who I am and having respect for Antonio, having him enjoy the moment.”
The torn hamstring did not require surgery, and Browne said he’s fully recovered and fully prepared for Gonzaga (14-6).
“To me, it’s just business as usual,” he says. “I’ve had six-month layoffs between fights before, so I’m actually OK. … I don’t feel like there’s any rust or anything like that.”
Browne, a former junior college basketball player, will have significant height and reach advantages over the burly (6-2, 250) Gonzaga.
“I want forward motion from (Browne),” Jackson says, “but I want him to stay at length on his punches and kicks. Mike (Winkeljohn) and I have been working a lot on that.”
And if the fight goes to the ground?
“If I’m on my back, I’ll work to get up,” Browne said. “If I’m on top, then I’ll do damage while I’m down there.
“It’s up to me as an athlete to take (the game plan) in my hands and perform the way I know I can perform.”
A BUSY APRIL: The Browne-Gonzaga fight, part of Saturday’s “The Ultimate Fighter” card at the Mandalay Bay, is one of many involving Albuquerque-trained MMA fighters this month.
Last weekend, Jackson-Winkeljohn fighters went 5-1 in UFC, Invicta and Bellator competitions. Jackson was particularly pleased with Albuquerquean Michelle Waterson’s victory by fourth-round submission (arm bar) over Jessica Penne for the Invicta 105-pound title.
“What a war,” Jackson said. “(Waterson, 11-3) really showed what New Mexico is all about.”
On April 20, former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir (16-6), a recent addition to the Jackson-Winkeljohn camp, faces Daniel Cormier (11-0) on a UFC card to be televised on Fox. Moriarty 155-pounder Tim Means (18-3-1), who trains at Albuquerque’s FIT-NHB gym, is scheduled to face Jorge Masvidal (23-7) on that card.
On April 27, Jackson-Winkeljohn’s Jon “Bones” Jones (17-1) is scheduled to defend his UFC light heavyweight title against Chael Sonnen (27-12-1).
On the undercard, Jackson-Winkeljohn’s Leonard Garcia (15-10-1) takes on Cody McKenzie (13-3).
— This article appeared on page D2 of the Albuquerque Journal