David Branch is used to fighting outside his comfort zone.
But that all changes this Saturday night (March 23, 2013) when the four-fight UFC veteran takes on former WEC middleweight champion Paulo Filho on the World Series of Fighting II main card in Atlantic City.
Granted, with Filho's history, that's not entirely guaranteed.
Branch spoke to MMAmania.com during a special guest appearance on The Verbal Submission, talking about his upcoming main card bout, fighting close to home and even sharing a Renzo Gracie story in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How nice is it that this event is taking place in your backyard of Atlantic City where you live and train every day?
David Branch: Man, it's cool because I'm usually the one that has to go out to other places. It's always nice to get to fight closer to your home town. You have to do things with tickets because it's so close to home but it's cool because I love having my friends and family come watch and they give me that edge to perform even better. I'm gonna be stoked. It'll be buzzing when I go out there. I can't wait.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've been on a pretty nice run, going 3-0 at middleweight since leaving UFC. Do you think this is the kind of fight where if you go out there and take out Paulo Filho, you'll be right there in the mix?
David Branch: Absolutely. I never left anywhere and I'm here now. I've just gotta do what I've got to do and I'm really excited about this fight. Paulo Filho has got a big name and he's accomplished a lot of great things in the sport. I can't wait to step into the cage with him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): World Series of Fighting, this is just its second event, but if you win this fight, you'll already be 2-0 in the promotion. Have you heard anything about potentially earning a title shot with a win?
David Branch: I'm sure they will in the future. I know just as much as anyone else and I don't want to look forward to too many hurdles. I just need to jump over the one that's in front of me now. If I get past this one and they're talking title fights, then that's awesome.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Paulo Filho at one point was considered the number two middleweight on the planet and we all know what happened. He got really flakey, had some drug and weight issues, got a face tattoo, the ghost in his corner against Chael Sonnen. What type of Paulo Filho are you expecting when you step into the cage?
David Branch: Well the one that I trained for is the one that used to wear the ripped up lumberjack in Pride. That's the guy I'm getting ready for. Now who shows up? That's not up to me. The only thing that I can control is what I do and I'm ready for the fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): He's still capable of that. In his last fight he took out Ninja Rua in Brazil so he's still got some pop in those hands.
David Branch: Yeah, I think Ninja was on his way out, the end of his career. Not to take anything away from them, I think they're both great fighters but it's my time. It's my time now. I'm really excited to go out there and take care of business.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you prepared for any shenanigans he might pull? He's fought at light heavyweight and even heavyweight in the last couple years. Are you concerned at all you might have to fight at a catchweight or something on short notice?
David Branch: No, absolutely not. I'm a professional. I've never missed weight. This is my 15th professional MMA fight and we're scheduled to fight at 185 pounds so that's what I'll show up at. We've got the one pound allowance so I'll show up at 186 at the most. What he does, I can't control. I have to make sure I hold up my end of the bargain. I'm contracted to fight at 185 so I'll keep up my end.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How helpful has Renzo Gracie been in your preparation for Filho, a fighter he probably knows quite a bit about?
David Branch: Very helpful. Renzo's always helpful, just the mental aspect and showing techniques and stuff. He's always a good inspiration.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Okay, you've been working with Renzo for years now, and there's nothing I love more than Renzo Gracie stories. Do you have any stories you'd like to share?
David Branch: I do, I do. (laughs) He told me this one one time and it's a pretty decent one. He was doing a private lesson when he first started school, he was fighting in Pride and trying to make his school grow. He was doing double work as a fighter training and building his school and this crazy karate guy came in one time when he was doing a private lesson and he watched the whole entire time. When Renzo was done teaching, the guy challenged him and he was like, "I cannot be choked!" He told Renzo, "I'm a world champion in Karate and I cannot be choked!" He was like, "I would like to train with you," and Renzo was like, "No problem, my man. I will train with you."
He knew this guy was gonna try something crazy like kick him in the nuts so Renzo was standing there and this guy tried to kick him in the nuts and Renzo caught it with his knee, double legged the guy and took his back and put him to sleep. I think he had to repeat it a few times, the guy woke up, bowed to Renzo and walked out. It was nuts.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about World Series of Fighting as a promotion. It's been making some big moves lately, picking up the likes of Jon Fitch, Jacob Volkmann and more. It seems like a good landing place for top caliber fighters to land and try to get themselves some exposure while working their way back to the top. What do you make of it?
David Branch: Well I want to be one of the fighters that fans want to watch. I'm bringing more excitement to my fights, more finishes and opening up more. I have all the talent in the world, it's just been the mental part. I was fairly young in my career when I went to the UFC. I wish I'd have gotten a little more experience but the experience I got was against top competition in the UFC so that's pretty good. World Series of Fighting is my home. I like it. I want to be with them. They're doing right by me and all they want from me is to go out and put on good fights and that's fine by me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Does WSOF's deal with NBC Sports and the fact that you're going to be on the main card affect you with sponsors and everything?
David Branch: Absolutely. I'm going to be getting in front of a national audience. My last fight, I was the opening bout, the first fight ever in World Series of Fighting and now I'm in the televised portion of the show against Paulo Filho. I think it's awesome. I'll get my name out there, my brand and it gives me an opportunity to showcase to the world what I'm capable of and to let everyone know I'm a real deal fighter, that I'm legit.
You can follow David on twitter @DavidcBranchMMA.