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Browne looks forward to avenging loss to Werdum

Heavyweight Fabricio Werdum, right defeated Travis Browne in 2014. Ross Dettman for ESPN

Almost exactly 2½ years ago, Fabricio Werdum embarrassed Travis Browne on national television. This weekend, we'll see if Browne grew from it.

Browne (18-4-1) will attempt to avenge a 2014 decision loss to Werdum on Saturday, as the two meet in the co-main event of UFC 203 in Cleveland. It's a short notice fight for Browne, who accepted the bout earlier this month when Werdum's original opponent suffered an injury.

There is no polite way to describe the first bout. Werdum (20-6-1) played with Browne -- taunted him throughout the five-round fight. In the third round, he dramatically flipped up off his back like something you'd see in an action movie. In the fourth, he went so far as to mockingly bow in Browne's direction after an exchange.

Shortly after that loss, Browne switched camps from Jackson Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Glendale Fighting Club in Southern California. He let UFC matchmakers know, on several occasions, he badly wanted a rematch against Werdum. Regardless of any circumstances, Browne eventually needed to fight him again.

"It's been 2 ½ years since the last time we fought, and I've wanted nothing else but to fight him again," Browne told ESPN.com. "I didn't care if it was for a title or not.

"Things happened in that fight that just never sat well with me. He came up to me afterward and tried saying, 'Oh, it's all part of putting on a fight.' All that stuff he did, that kind of stuff doesn't sit well with me. But that's the great thing about this fight, is I get to have my redemption."

Browne, 34, surprised a lot of people when he announced he was switching camps in 2014. Browne claims he left Jackson Wink MMA on good terms and that he was simply seeking a change.

A second matchup with Werdum represents a crossroads of sorts. He has had mixed results working with GFC's head coach Edmond Tarverdyan -- a 2-2 record with each fight ending via knockout. Many of the holes in Browne's striking game which he has worked on with Tarverdyan were identified in that loss to Werdum.

Running that fight back sure seems like the best opportunity to gauge how far he has come.

"That loss was a big reason why I switched camps," Browne said. "I'm not putting any extra pressure on myself for that. I'm not thinking about whether that was the right call or anything like that. We've worked on these weaknesses ever since that fight. Now, I get the chance to go back in there and perform against the same guy."

Once considered one of the best up-and-comers in the heavyweight division, Browne has settled into a mainstay in the division's top 10, but has yet to truly cross over into the upper echelon.

In addition to his work with Tarverdyan, Browne trains primarily with grappling coach Ricky Lundell and occasionally with the Blackzilians' Neil Melanson. He flew former UFC light heavyweight Thiago Silva to California for this shortened camp.

Adding injury to insult in the first Werdum fight, Browne suffered a broken hand early on, as well as a broken foot. He admits now those injuries affected him, but says the greater takeaway was the technical improvements he needed to make.

"For Travis, I think the last little bit to get him to that UFC title has a lot to do with controlling the distance and making sure his footwork stays in line so he can land that damaging shot," Lundell said. "He knows how to fight on the outside. He can control guys on the ground, and he can't be submitted. If he controls those small elements of controlling distance and staying smooth, there's nobody he can't finish.

"Usually when a short-notice fight comes up, there's a conversation of, 'What do you think?' With this one, it was Travis saying, 'I'm gonna knock this guy out.' There's a lot of hard ego on the line for Travis, and when you're going up against the No. 1 contender in the division, you need somebody who is full of piss and vinegar. Right now, that's Travis."