LOS ANGELES — While Travis Browne’s relationship with Ronda Rousey blossomed, his mixed martial arts career wilted.
Once considered a surefire heavyweight title contender, Browne has lost three straight fights. After losing just once in his first 18 professional bouts, he has lost five of his last seven in a skid that began shortly before his high-profile relationship with Rousey, the most famous woman in their sport.
Yet Browne is eager to correct anybody who might think his slump in the cage is connected to his domestic bliss with the former bantamweight champion, who accepted his marriage proposal in April.
Browne said his new fiancée is the biggest reason he’s still in there swinging as he prepares to face Oleksiy Oliynik at UFC 213 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
“My personal life is better than it’s ever been,” Browne said. “Being with somebody who understands the game, being with somebody who’s there to support you as a partner in life instead of being that person who draws that energy out of you ... I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that. I’d be pretty low in my career right now, so having that personal backing has made all the difference in the world.”
Browne (18-6-1) has regularly fought in main events during his seven-year UFC career, but he’s meeting Oliynik (51-10-1) on the preliminary card before the pay-per-view portion of UFC 213 at T-Mobile Arena. The 6-foot-7 Hawaii-born heavyweight knows he has to rebuild his reputation as a fearsome contender after going winless since January 2016.
“This last year has been a tough one,” Browne said. “I was on a steady downward slope. But every fight, you’ve got to go out there and prove yourself, so it doesn’t deter me from going out there and putting in the work. I feel like I have yet to really show the best of me, and ... I’m done talking about it. I just need to go out there and perform. I just need to shut up and just go out there and do it.”
Browne’s recent struggles include stoppage losses to Cain Velasquez, Andrei Arlovski and Derrick Lewis, who knocked out Browne in February and then made rude comments about Rousey in his post-fight interview while also referencing unproven allegations of domestic violence by Browne’s ex-wife two years ago.
Browne realizes such scrutiny is part of his life now with Rousey, whose fame and fortune attract attention that neither fighter desires. Browne is also eager to protect his two sons from the fallout of his divorce, which was finalized one month after his last victory.
Those concerns were far away when Rousey and Browne got engaged under a waterfall in New Zealand. He was more nervous about the proposal than he has ever been about getting in the cage.
“I wanted everything to be perfect, and the least she deserves is me being perfect,” Browne said. “That was the pressure I put on myself. After I proposed, she was like, ‘I knew something was up with you. You were on edge, and we’re on vacation.’ Because usually I’m the most laid-back guy, but I just had this thing in my mind.”
Browne and Rousey have moved inland from Venice Beach, California, to Rousey’s native Riverside, where they tend a large garden and eat the 400 pounds of meat stored in their freezers from Browne’s extensive exploits as a bow hunter.
Browne aspires to the isolationist, survivalist lifestyle that appeals to many MMA fighters, but he also can’t imagine completely dropping off the grid and abandoning his sport forever. He intends to keep fighting as long as he can, although he knows a fourth straight loss could put him in danger of release from the UFC.
Rousey has shown no indication of being interested in re-starting her own MMA career after two straight losses, including a brutal first-round stoppage last December by current champion Amanda Nunes, who fights Valentina Shevchenko in the main event of UFC 213.
Browne supports whatever Rousey decides to do, but he isn’t pushing or prying.
“That’s one thing we set up early on as being a couple,” Browne said. “She [has] her own work. That’s her baby. What I do is my baby, and outside of that, we have an amazing relationship.”