Travis Browne surprised a lot of people when he said in an interview that he was only just "learning to fight" with new coach Edmond Tarverdyan.
After all, this was a guy who spent the last few years training at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., regarded as one of the top camps in the world. Tarverdyan attempted to explain to Ariel Helwani what Brown meant when he spoke to FOX Sports two months ago. The coach told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour that he "saw a lot of mistakes" in the heavyweight's game when he arrived at Glendale Fighting Club.
"The guy can't punch from short distance or middle distance," said Tarverdyan, who has made his MMA name coaching UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. "He has to swing his hands. And even swinging, when he was out there he really couldn't have punched. He punches, but you have to swing to be able to connect that shot. Yes, it does [land], because he just has that in him, the fighting instinct. He just does it in there and it's been working for him. But not at the top level where somebody could really keep the distance the right way. He won't be able to land a shot and then what happens?"
Browne, who meets Brendan Schaub at UFC 181 on Saturday in Las Vegas, never meant to insult his coaches at Jackson's. But he believes he has gained a wealth of knowledge about the fight game during this camp in Los Angeles.
"I learned as a fighter I know how to go out there and mess somebody," Browne told FOX Sports in October. "I know how to go out there and 'F' stuff up, but I don't know how to fight. That's one of the things that I'm learning right now. As a fighter, you kind of don't want to admit that but at the same time I'm not looking to sit here comfortably in the three-spot or four-spot -- I'm going for the championship."
Tarverdyan said it would be incorrect to intimate that Browne (16-2-1) was clueless in the Octagon. Browne has had plenty of success in the UFC and would have been the No. 1 contender in the heavyweight division had he beaten Fabricio Werdum on FOX back in April. His only other career loss came to Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva and he tore his hamstring during that bout.
"Of course he could fight," Tarverdyan said. "The guy gets in there and gets a lot of knockouts. He does know how to fight. But knows how to fight properly and knows how to balance himself and will be able to win against opponents at the top level? Absolutely not. Now he can. Because now he knows exactly what he's doing."
Browne's biggest holes were, according to Tarverdyan, inside striking and strength and conditioning. Since coming to Glendale Fighting club, Browne has improved his gas tank and has held his own against Olympic-level boxers, per the coach.
"If a heavyweight cannot hit the bag for one round, there's something wrong with that," Tarverydyan said. "Travis Browne couldn't hit the bag for one round. He would get fatigued, because he couldn't let his hands go constantly the way I wanted him to go."
The one thing Tarverdyan never doubted was Browne's toughness. The Hawaiian broke his hand early in the fight with Werdum and persevered for all five rounds.
"He's a fighter," Tarverdyan said. "He's gonna go out there and fight. That I know. The guy fought with one hand and was behind, yes. It says a lot. He does have heart. He does go out there and fight. And now he's gonna go out there and fight and be able to fight the right way, I would say."