It takes a special breed to handle the emotional roller coaster that is the life of a professional fighter.
UFC heavyweight contender Travis Browne has been through highest highs and the lowest lows during his recent encounters. There was the memorable comeback from near-defeat to knock out Alistair Overeem in Boston in Aug. 2013; then there was a letdown of a performance on national television against Fabricio Werdum with a title shot hanging in the balance in January.
At a fan question-and-answer session Friday before the UFC Fight Night 54 weigh-ins in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the subject matter turned deep as Browne waxed eloquent on the peaks and valleys of his chosen profession.
"We're emotional," said Browne, who meets Brendan Schaub at UFC 181 in December. "If anything, we're some of the most emotional fighters out there. We have to be to get in this sport. If you're not scared to death of losing, then you need to get out of this sport or you're going to get hurt."
To Browne, the appeal of the sport is in accountability. There's no one to blame but yourself if you lose.
"That's the hard thing about this sport," Browne said. "You don't have a guy over you telling you what you have to do. ‘You have to do this, you have to do that.' So at the end of the day, I'm responsible for myself. So what I do is I put people in place around me to help keep me accountable. At the end of the day, it all comes down to you, and that's the only way you can progress in this sport. A lot of these guys will try to fake it and point the fingers at everyone but themselves, then they wonder why they're not getting a shot. They wonder why they're still on the undercard. They wonder why they're still losing. They wonder why they get cut. Those are those guys complaining after all this stuff happening. The guys that are successful in the sport, they own up to it and they move forward.
That attitude came in handy as Browne looked to rebound from his loss to Werdum, in which he got off to a bad start and had to play catch-up the rest of the way before losing a decision.
"If you're going to be a man and get in there and do this sport, you better man up and understand your own mistakes," Browne said. "There's no way to get around that. There's absolutely no way. If you want to be successful in this sport, you have to face it. There's no way to not get too down. I was depressed, when I came off my loss to Werdum. I'm not gonna lie. I didn't even watch the fight for three months, and then the first time I watched the fight was with coach Edmond [Tarverdyan], and man, I was up and down the gym, I'm pacing, I'm pissed off, cussing most likely, and just ready, you know what I mean? It is what it is. You gotta look at it. You gotta learn from it. And that's how you turn it around, you let yourself get there. You let yourself live there so that you never want to go back."
It's not like Browne is the only fighter to go through such ups and downs. He can empathize with someone like Dustin Poirier, who got caught up in the hype of his fight with Conor McGregor, then got knocked out in embarrassing fashion last weekend.
"Dustin's a warrior, and I love watching that guy, but, man, he got showed up pretty bad, facts being the facts, and he got knocked out pretty bad. Coming off something like that, I would take it a lot harder than coming off my loss to Werdum where I lost a decision."
Later, Browne was asked about his memorable win over Overeem, in which he was rocked by body shots and absorbed a hellacious beating on the ground before getting to his feet and turning the fight around.
"At the time I had never, not once, ever, been dropped by a body shot," Browne said. "Not ever, not in a fight. I was like man, ‘I must have abs of steel behind this blubber.' but it happened, he hit it he went through it fairly easily, and i was on the mat before I knew it. And it wasn't just one knee, that's the thing. He broke me down after hitting me in the same sport four or five times, and I just didn't know what to do. It was one of those things, I was just like, what the hell is going on, this isn't supposed to be happening."
Browne teared up and his voice trailed off before explaining his thought process on how he weathered the storm, a microcosm of the mental ups and downs successful fighters have to manage.
"When I was down there and getting pummeled, the only thing I can think about man was my woman and my kids, and there's no way those boys are going to see their dad lose like this, you know?"