Rumors are swirling around the mixed martial arts world this morning that UFC heavyweight, and MMA’s most famous boyfriend, Travis Browne has finally come to his senses and left the Glendale Fighting Club. If the rumors are true, Browne will be training for his fight against Derrick Lewis at UFC 208 in Brooklyn at Blackhouse Gym, home to Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, the Nogueira brothers, and other UFC legends—meaning for the first time since leaving the Jackson-Winklejohn camp in 2014, the former heavyweight contender who once boasted all the potential in the world will be training with fighters who are worth his time.
Browne, who started his UFC career on a three-year tear through the heavyweight division, left Jackson’s after a lopsided loss to Fabricio Werdum in April 2014, choosing to join his girlfriend Ronda Rousey at Glendale under the tutelage of Edmond Tarverdyan. At the time it seemed like a promising move. After all, Rousey was still invincible then and Tarverdyan, an otherwise unknown kickboxing coach, was being lauded as the man who had turned an Olympic judoka into a MMA terror, capable of mauling Alexis Davis with punches in just 16 seconds a few months earlier. If Ronda could do that, surely Tarverdyan was onto something, and maybe Browne was wise and pioneering to go find out what it was.
Unfortunately, the rumors of Tarverdyan’s genius had been greatly exaggerated and soon Browne’s once-promising career was crashing into a wall. Over his next five fights, Browne went 2-3, capped off by yet another embarrassing unanimous decision loss to Fabricio Werdum. Meanwhile, Rousey’s career went off the rails against Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes, both of whom pulled back the curtain on the myth of Ronda’s striking prowess, and their coach, Tarverdyan, came under legal scrutiny for fraudulent financial practices and athletic scrutiny for the rapid and dramatic decline in all his fighters’ fortunes. In the end, the message was clear for Browne: Leave and live or stay and die. God bless “Hapa” for still having eyes to see.
But if he finally wants to make good on all the promise of his early UFC days Browne will need to do more than just show up and train with his new team; he’s going to have to perform ritual sacrifices and purges like some ancient mystic. Only great purifying fires will do here; only violent acts of expiation will wash away Browne’s mistakes. Which means he needs to spend the next three weeks getting re-educated by Anderson Silva and eluded by Lyoto Machida and twisted up by Roger Gracie and pounded on by Glover Teixeira and generally humbled by every fighter Blackhouse has to offer. He needs to have his unfortunate two-and-half-year sojourn at Glendale beaten and wrenched out of him. If he can do that, if he can lay himself bare and give himself over, he may yet have a chance at greatness. And if leaving Glendale means Ronda leaves as well, then doing so will ensure Travis Browne’s place in MMA heaven, for then he will have played a role in the resurrection of the biggest star in the sport’s history and the redemption of arguably its most tragic figure. To bring hope and possibility back into the heart of Ronda Rousey would be an act of true majesty.
As for Tarverdyan, the good times couldn’t last forever. As I’m typing this President Obama and his family are flying away from D.C. on a helicopter, leaving us behind to deal with President Trump. All things must pass, I guess. But if America can survive such wild differences in temperament, ideology, and capacity in its leaders (fingers crossed), surely Tarverdyan can find his way back into the good graces of the MMA gods. All it takes is a healthy dose of self-promotion, a bloated sense of your own genius, and a credulous press, and in America all things are possible.
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