WSOF Middleweight champion, David Branch, grew up in the Bronx, and comes from a family that didn’t shy away from fighting. He has two brothers that are pro boxers, and learned from a young age that being able to defend yourself isn’t a bad thing.
Branch trains under the tutelage of famed BBJ master Renzo Gracie, and is a black belt in the discipline. Branch has fought in just about every major MMA organization including the UFC and Bellator before finding his way to WSOF, and has had battles with some of the top names is the business such as Paulo Filho and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.
David will be defending his title against Yushin Okami at WSOF 15 on October 24th. I had a chance to sit down with David and talk about his younger life, and what drives him to be a champion.
Aaron Robbins: David, thanks for taking some time for me. Would you mind giving the fans a look at your past, and what got you into MMA?
David Branch: “Oh man, that’s a long story. When I was a kid my brother always used to make me fight. He used to make the kids play fight with each other. It just seemed that we were doing a lot of fighting. We would fight in school, fight on the basketball court. It was normal that kids fought a lot back then, ya know? I was born in 81′ so in the late eighties and early nineties kids were still scrapping with each other, and not shooting each other yet.
“My brother, Jamal Hamilton, was a two time Golden Glove champion, and went on to box professionally. He went undefeated, but he just kind of stopped. My other brother, Sechew Powell is still actively boxing professionally, but I’m not sure how he is doing. It seems like my family likes to fight.
“I originally started martial arts at a Karate school. I stayed there for about two-and-a-half years, and the instructor realized it wasn’t really what I wanted to do, so he contacted Michael Casey out of Relson Gracie’s satellite program. I started training over there in the Bronx and stayed there for about three years. I started competing and won some tournaments out of there. It was time for me to start growing and having better training partners, so I went to Renzo’s where there was a bunch of new information and talent. I was exposed to a high level of Jiu Jitsu early on. Relson told me to go there and train with his cousin, so I went and I never left. I’ve been really happy there.”
AR: From what I understand you have trained Jiu Jitsu for over ten years, and were awarded your black belt by Renzo, is that correct?
DB: “Yes. It’s a major accomplishment, and feels really good. When I got the black belt I wasn’t thinking of the belt anymore. I was just focused in on training. It’s something that just came. Every time I got a promotion in Jiu Jitsu I never really expected it. To be a black belt under the Renzo Gracie lineage is something that I am very proud of. It’s something that I will always have, and makes me proud.”
AR: It is definitely an amazing accomplishment. David you have fought for many organizations, but most recently you have been in WSOF. Tell us about your last fight.
DB: “I fought for the Middleweight championship of the world against Jesse Taylor. That was a really important fight for me. I was getting to the point where I was rekindling the confidence in my abilities. I started to realize what I can do, and that I am really good at this sport. I was able to go out there and put it all together. I think it takes some people longer to peak at fighting, and I think I’ve found my own way in the cage. I feel really comfortable there now. Some guys put it all together early in their career and for others it takes a little while.
“I think WSOF has been really good for me because it has allowed me to find the niche. I’m no longer nervous, now I want to go in there and embarrass my opponent. Now I see all sorts of ways to hurt my opponent, and to finish them. Jesse was a really good opponent for me to do that with because he is really tough. He’s got 37 fights, and he has fought all over the world. He is a tough wrestler who has a grueling ground and pound style. For me to dispatch him in under two minutes let people know that I’m a serious fighter.”
AR: I don’t think anybody doubts that you are a serious fighter at this point. You haven’t had any easy fights since getting into WSOF. Do you want to touch on that for a minute?
DB: “Yeah my first two fights were against Dustin Jacoby at the inaugural World Series of Fighting 1, and then Paulo Filho at WSOF 2. People say that Paulo was plauged by drugs and stuff like that, but I studied Paulo for a long time and I think that even if he would’ve been in his prime the results would’ve been the same. I put him in bad spots and just took the wind out of him. I knew that if you bullied him and kept him on the back foot he wouldn’t be able to handle it. I don’t think it matters where I would’ve fought him. It’s one of those things where if he would’ve gone out there and just knocked me out, people would’ve said ‘there’s the old Paulo Filho”, but if he went out there and gets the shit beat out of him, like what happened that night, people were like ‘oh I don’t know what happened’. I sort of have mixed feelings about that fight. I don’t feel that I earned the respect that I should’ve with that victory.”
AR: Well David as the saying goes, haters gonna hate. Now talking about earning your respect. On October 24th you will be fighting Yushin Okami. Give us your thoughts on your first title defense.
DB: “I can’t say that I’ve always wanted to fight him or anything like that. I don’t really see anything too special about him. He’s a very tough competitor. He is a really strong guy that comes from a Judo background. He has good submission defense and focuses his game on ground and pound. He’s not a huge combination puncher, he just tries to stalk you down. I think it’s a perfect fight for me because of my movement. I think that I have more power in my hands. I feel that I’m more well versed in submissions. I think that I have a better gas tank, and I think that my strategy to employ all my skills inside the cage is more advanced than his. It’s a great opportunity for me because it will let people know that I’m for real when I beat him. I’m going to show people that he has no business being in the cage with me. I don’t think he’s going to make all five rounds, I’m going to finish him.”
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