BOSTON—Call Travis Browne and Matt Mitrione late bloomers. The former wandered into professional MMA at 26 after playing basketball in college; Mitrione debuted in the sport in his thirties after washing out of the NFL.
“Matt and I are two of the most athletic guys in the heavyweight division,” Browne tells Breitbart Sports. So, it’s only natural that the UFC matched the pair of natural athletes in a fight in a basketball-versus-football, main-card battle on UFC Fight Night in Boston this Sunday on Fox Sports 1.
“Most people just get off on being big and powerful,” Browne observes. “But we can move as well.”
And it’s not that the two men lack for size or power. With the 255-pound Mitrione ending eight of his nine wins by way of strikes and the 6’7” Browne enjoying an outstanding ratio of 13 of 17 victories coming by TKO or KO, one of the men likely ends the other’s night by briefly ending his consciousness.
“Football got me my start,” Mitrione tells Breitbart Sports. “I only got on The Ultimate Fighter because I was an ex-NFL guy.”
Mitrione parlayed that experience with the Giants and Vikings into a career in mixed-martial arts highlighted by wins over Kimbo Slice, Gabe Gonzaga, and Joey Beltran.
While Mitrione enjoyed the better pre-MMA athletic career, Browne boasts the superior cage-fighting CV. Hapa owns wins over Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, and Stefan Struve. Mitrione recognizes the unique talent in his way.
“Travis is athletic,” Meathead concedes. “He was a Division III basketball player, I believe. He’s long, he’s got range, and he’s explosive.”
Browne notes that his athleticism comes in handy in a division known for guys who rely on brawn and power to overcome deficiencies in skill, experience, or athleticism.
“You’re able to think on your feet a little bit and move accordingly and just react instead of just freeze. Naturally, when you’re an athlete you just move certain ways either to avoid certain things or to attack,” notes Browne.
Mitrione, too, acknowledges areas where athleticism helps.
“My footwork is different than everybody else’s,” Mitrione maintains. “I liken myself to a heavyweight Dominick Cruz.”
Browne sees the sport evolving in a more athletic direction. The emergence of such champions as Luke Rockhold and Holly Holm, offering something more than just toughness or gym experience, gives credence to his belief.
“I feel like the sport of MMA is evolving that way where we’re going to start getting these high-level athletes that can really go play any sport,” Browne declares. “He played football. I played basketball. He played at a higher level of football than I did basketball but we’re both athletes.”
Breitbart Sports covers the action that determines perhaps the better athlete, or, as Mitrione put it, what sport reigns as the “king,” Sunday night in Boston.