Junie Browning's career as a professional fighter probably came to an end in a Henderson, Nev., hospital on Tuesday, but his devastated coach said the real story is about far more than Browning's shattered mixed martial arts career.
Browning, 24, who developed a notorious reputation as a troublemaker during Season 8 of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series on Spike TV, overdosed on at least 16 anti-anxiety pills Tuesday in an act that coach Shawn Tompkins believes to have been an attempt on his life.
Browning, who lived with Tompkins and his wife for most of the time since leaving the reality series, swallowed 16 Klonopin tablets Tuesday at his Henderson apartment, Tompkins said. Tompkins said he believed alcohol was involved and potentially other drugs. According to Drugs.com, Klonopin "is used to treat seizure disorders or panic disorder.''
After waking from his drug-induced deep sleep, Tompkins said Browning became enraged while at St. Rose Dominican Hospital, Siena campus, when he was told he was going to be admitted. He pushed a female nurse, punched a male nurse and kicked a different male nurse. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Browning shouted to nurses, "Do you know who I am? I will kill you and rape your family."
Police restrained Browning and then arrested him. He was charged with three counts of battery upon a health care provider, which is a gross misdemeanor. He was booked Tuesday into the Henderson Detention Center and released on Wednesday.
Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday he terminated Browning's contract immediately upon learning of the arrest.
Browning had been training in Las Vegas under Tompkins at the highly regarded Xtreme Couture Gym, where, by all accounts, he was doing well. He hasn't fought since losing to Cole Miller on a UFC card in Nashville, Tenn., on April 1, dropping his record to 3-1.
"Obviously, I'm very disappointed," White said. "I haven't heard anything regarding Junie where he's acted up or been bad in a long time. You could tell on the show he had issues. I saw [fighting] as an opportunity for the kid to turn his life around and make something of himself. Physically, he's very gifted. He is good at everything. Standup, he has great ground, he has an unbelievably good chin.
"He was given an amazing opportunity, but he has some serious issues that are beyond me and what I can do. I'm there for guys and I realize nobody is perfect and guys are going to get into trouble. When that happens, I want to try to help and do something for them. But he needs more help than I can give him. I did what I could for him."
Tompkins was heartbroken by the news. He conceded it's unlikely Browning will ever fight again, but said that was of little concern to him. He said he invited Browning into his home to live with him and his wife and that he developed a close personal bond. He said Browning is bipolar and suffers from severe depression but is a good person.
"This is a tragedy," Tompkins said. "Those comments that he made were obviously terrible, but you have to understand, he was under the influence of a severe amount of drugs. You can't hold him accountable for what he said, even though what he said was terrible, because of what he put inside of him. He's truly a sweet kid, but he's a guy with a lot of personal issues.
"There is a good Junie Browning and I saw that side of him a lot. But he comes from a real bad upbringing and he suffers from severe depression. He's had an enormously difficult life. There's a lot to life beyond stepping into a cage and fighting and being on TV and a lot of people who think they know Junie don't, really. He's at a very deep and troubled point in his life."
Tompkins said Browning moved out of his home and into an apartment with his girlfriend shortly after returning from the loss to Miller. Tompkins said problems had arisen between Browning and his girlfriend and things were going poorly.
She called Tompkins on Tuesday when Browning became unresponsive after ingesting the tablets. The Review-Journal reported he took 16 Klonopin, but Tompkins said he was under the understanding it was between 16 and 20.
"If I'd gotten to his place a half-hour later, there might not be a Junie Browning any longer," Tompkins said. "Fortunately, he was just five blocks away from me. I realize that his career is more than likely over, but this isn't about Junie the fighter. This is about Junie the man and the challenge I face is getting him to become a guy who loves his own life instead of trying to take his life."
- Junie Browning
- Shawn Tompkins