Travis Browne isn't lacking these days. Not for much, anyway. That's not just true monetarily (more on that in a minute), but for confidence and place in the UFC heavyweight division. After stopping former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett at UFC 168 in late December - faster than anyone had discounting a quick injury stoppage in 2004 - 'Hapa' is of the belief only he can stop himself. He's never done better as a fighter or father and he's got the attitude to prove it.
That doesn't mean, however, he still doesn't have words for Barnett.
"My buddy told me about it and I just started watching it for a little bit. Yeah, I watched some of it," Browne told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour about a previous MMA Hour appearance Barnett had made just the week prior.
In the appearance, Barnett admitted to playing the popular online game World of Warcraft and laid out a 12-step plan to get back in title contention. Nowhere, though, did Barnett explicitly give Browne credit for the victory.
"I feel that defines him as a fighter. And he had these 12 steps and all this other kind of nonsense when really there's only one step, one thing that you really need to do in this sport. It's the golden frickin' rule and that is make no excuses.
"That is it," Browne continued. "If you make no excuses, there's nothing holding you back. People beat themselves in this sport. On that night - on any night - I'm the better fighter and I 100 percent believe that of myself. That's why I went out there and did what nobody else has done in such a short amount of time to a fighter like Josh Barnett."
When asked if he's out for respect, Browne is quick to reply he's not. Sure, at one point in his career, it was all he could think about. No, however, as time progresses and his resume improves, it's not 'respect' he's out for exactly. Browne believes doing the work required to be champion naturally confers upon a fighter all the respect they ever wanted.
"That's the thing. I think people get worried about that," Browne explained. "That's something that I wanted when I was really young in the sport, when I first got into UFC. People would say, 'What do you think?' and I would say, 'I want to feel like I belong. I want people to understand that I belong here in the sport.'
"At this point in my career, I don't care if people think I belong or not because I'm knocking people out. My performance is speaking for itself. The respect that I get is going to be earned. That's the way i look at it. That's just the byproduct. The respect is the byproduct of the performances you put on."
As for Barnett, Browne's got a theory about why he came up short again him at UFC 168. Whereas someone like Browne has a singular focus, Browne believes Barnett doesn't view himself with the appropriate prioritization. The results then speak for themselves.
"I feel like he's an entertainer before he's a fighter and I think he has that personality," Browne said of Barnett. "Guys that I fought before, they give me respect because they understand once we get in the cage, once we leave the cage, what kind of an athlete I am. So, I get that respect. I don't really care if I get that from Josh. That's more his personality. And I honestly feel like that's one of the reasons why he failed that night."
That's all in the past now for Browne and he's already training for his scheduled bout opposite Fabricio Werdum in April that will determine the division's number one contender for Cain Velasquez. But he's not doing all of it under similar circumstances than before. Despite having the option to negotiate a new contract with the UFC prior to the Barnett fight, Browne took the risky route and waited until after the fight.
Browne didn't mention any specifics about what the contract offers, but noted he was thrilled with it. That's particularly true in light of where he's come from, something he owned up about to Helwani in great detail.
"There was a point in my life and my career where I had less than $100 to spend on both of my kids for Christmas. I remember telling myself, I remember telling my best friend, I said, 'This will never happen again.' I will not let this happen. I mean, $100 for me to spend on my family, friends, everybody. For me to be able to provide for my kids like I am now is really a dream come true.
"People see what they see now, but they choose to not see what it took to get here. Just to be an MMA fighter, I went over $50,000 in debt. My management, they supported me. They took the reins. They really saw in me something worth investing and they invested in it and it's paid off for them," Browne said.
"In 2010 I had my truck repo'd. There's been so much crap I've had to go through to get to this point. Like I said, I would rather earn it than someone give it to me and that's why. I've been where other people have been. I can understand where they're coming from. I'm tough on those kinds of people because I was tough on myself in those situations. You always have doors that are open for you, but you have to take advantage of them once they're there."
Despite what some fans may think was a golden ticket, Browne's financial struggles didn't end with a UFC debut. The native Hawaiian noted his truck was repossessed just prior to his first UFC bout. It was also after his second fight in the UFC opposite Cheick Kongo where he only earned $8,000 for the resulting draw, which contributed to the Christmas where he only had $100 to spend.
"Right before my first fight with [James] McSweeney, that's when I had my truck repo'd. I was just living where I could at the time, at a very small place. I was always late on the rent. I think finally, by the time I moved out of that place I think I had $1,300 worth of late payment bills because I had paid the rent late.
"It was one thing after another at that point in my life. It was very difficult. But, like I said, I made it through. I didn't want people feeling sorry for me then. I don't want people feeling sorry for me now. You can do it if you put your mind to it."
The rags to riches trajectory of Browne's life that has come with his accomplishments in the Octagon have validated how he has felt about himself during the course of his journey. The next step in that process is a match with perennial top contender Werdum at UFC on Fox 11 in April.
Browne isn't worried about Werdum, though, despite being a formidable talent. Well, actually he is, but not in the traditional way fighters think of their opponents.
"He's the next guy in line, man," Browne said of Werdum. "I build these guys up to be monster in my mind. I've even dreamed about them beating me. I have a mental coach and he was like, 'No matter what you do in these practices, you always want to picture yourself coming out on top.' There's been times where I'm dreaming, I wake up with the feeling of disappointment that I just lost to that person.
"I've dreamed about these guys beating me and when I do that, I think that already gives me more motivation to go out the next day or the next work and even work that much harder so I never feel that feeling again."
Browne's so prepared and ready to earn what he believes is his, he has no problems giving his opposition credit should something go wrong. If they defeat him, they must've done it the right way, too.
"I have no excuses," Browne was quick to observe. "There's no reason for me to not put in the work I have to put in in order to be successful. I have no excuses. If there's a man that beats me right now, there is not an excuse. You are the better man and I have no problem admitting that."
As one can imagine, however, Browne's not banking on that outcome. He's happy with his progress and notes the astronomical distance between the 2010 Christmas with no money and the one he had with his kids after UFC 168. Things have gone well, to put it mildly.
But for 'Hapa', they just haven't gone far enough.
"I'm not there," Browne said sternly. "I'm still working on it. I'm at the bottom working my way up. That's the way I look at it."