David Branch admits that his return to the UFC in May after a six-year absence was akin to being in “a different fish tank” than he was while a two-division champion in the World Series of Fighting promotion, but once the Octagon gate closed and he faced off against Krzysztof Jotko, “It was business as usual.”
Business as usual for the New Yorker means winning, and after three rounds with Jotko at UFC 211, Branch emerged with a split decision victory that lifted his unbeaten streak to 11. More importantly, it put him in the middleweight top ten and landed him a main event spot fighting former UFC champion Luke Rockhold this Saturday.
For him, there’s no better place to be. Just don’t say that it’s the perfect time for a 35-year-old prizefighter, because then Branch may call you on that.
“As far as my age, I’m not approaching 40 or anything,” he said. “I’m gonna be 36 and in four years I’ll be 40. People have this misconception about fighters, and we’ve seen fighters time and time again in their mid and late 30s go out and dominate the action. The champion in my division (Michael Bisping) is 38 years old. One of the most dangerous guys in the division (Yoel Romero) is 40. Anderson Silva is 42 years old. So come on. I feel like I’m right there.”
Point taken, Mr. Branch. So let’s just say he’s in the right place at the right time this weekend in Pittsburgh, and if he should beat Rockhold, it will be a good thing for his career. The question is, will he need a spectacular win to get into the title picture, or will a win suffice? Branch knows that there were no Fight of the Night awards for his bout with Jotko, but there was a win, and that’s what he’s after.
“I want to put on an entertaining fight,” said Branch, who has finished 12 of his 21 wins. “I want to put on an entertaining fight by finishing the fight. I enjoy finishing the fight, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. I’m usually very dominant in my fights and people don’t recognize how hard it is to dominate another professional athlete who’s trained all of those years. They don’t give you credit for that; they just want to see fireworks.
“I’m not in the circus,” he continues. “I’m not a circus lion or a circus elephant that’s gonna jump through hoops and make people go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah.’ Of course, I’d like to bring those elements to the fight, but my main concern is to win, because if you don’t win, and you go out there and you’re exciting, everybody remembers that you lost and your stock goes down, you’re not making as much money. I’m a businessman, this is a business, so I’m also about that W.”
And as Branch explains, it takes two to tango, and for him to deliver the kind of performances that will get fans on their feet, he needs someone willing to fight with him.
“I always have a better and more entertaining fight with guys who actually bring it,” he said. “It allows me to dig into my tool box and implement a lot of the techniques I have available in my large vocabulary of fighting IQ. So if I get a guy that’s really coming at me, it always means a more exciting show.
“The last guy that I fought (Jotko) has really good footwork, he’s very tricky, but he doesn’t really bring it to you like that. He’s got a lot of decisions, and I knew fighting a guy like that, you’ve got to get the W on him. It’s your first time back, feel everything out, you’re gonna be on Pay-Per-View, you haven’t been in this organization for a while, so don’t build it up too much but don’t take it lightly. Just go out there and win. And I already knew that I was gonna beat him, I knew I could beat him; I just had to go out there and execute and that’s what I did.”
Which now brings up the million dollar question for Branch? Is Rockhold the kind of fighter that will bring it this weekend? Maybe, maybe not, but this middleweight contender is out to make a statement come fight night.
“It depends on Rockhold,” Branch said. “I’m gonna bring it to him. He better fight back and he better bring it back. I’m going to take this fight to him because I know he can’t take it. I’m gonna put a tremendous amount of pressure on him and I’m gonna run this kid over.”