David Branch is already the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) middleweight champion, but that wasn't enough of a challenge for the native New Yorker, so he decided to compete in the light heavyweight tournament this evening (April 10, 2015) live on NBC Sports Network from the Foxwoods Resort Casino, with the winner earning the WSOF light heavyweight strap.
"I'm still hungry," Branch told MMAMania recently. "Still got a chip on my shoulder. And now at light heavy, I still want more."
The middleweight champion explained how the jump up in weight transpired.
"They weren't in a pinch. It was something I wanted to do," Branch said. "I talked to my management. I'm a really big middleweight. From the last camp I had surgery, after my last fight I ballooned up to almost 240. I went on a weight training program like I always do. I do a bulk phase just to get the power before I go into a training camp. It was just sticking to me. I wasn't losing the weight right away. A lot of the weight was turning into solid muscle. I said, 'you know what, I'm going to put my new body to use and compete in the tournament for the 205 championship as well.'"
Branch, 33, was set to face Ronny Markes in the semi-final matchup of the tournament, but as of yesterday the Brazilian had to drop out prior to weigh ins and was subsequently replaced with Jesse McElligott, who will be making his WSOF debut.
As of today, there has been no word from the promotion as to whether or not the fight will still be considered part of the light heavyweight tournament or not. But, the switch from Markes to McElligott is ok with Branch, who doesn't really believe in doing homework on who he is competing against.
"I don't really study my opponents," Branch admits. "I train for everything. I think I'm one of the better fighters that can adjust very well in a fight. My last fight when I fought Okami. I tore my right bicep. So I was grabbing Okami's legs just so that he wouldn't think that I wasn't going to take him down. I couldn't take him down, because my right bicep was torn. It threw my Jiu-Jitsu game out the window. All I could do was box. I had to rely on stand up, using boxing, kickboxing and movement. I ended up sitting him down with my right hand, and that was the one with the bicep that was torn."
The Gracie jiu jitsu black belt had successful surgery on his bicep and also had his knee scoped after winning the title. He was asked how he he's feeling nowadays that he is 33 in a young man's sport.
"Obviously, I can't just jump out of bed like I used to when I was 23," he says. "My reflexes haven't changed or anything like that, because my technique is better. I've always been a fighter that didn't depend on a lot of athletic movement, even though I'm very athletic. I don't waste a lot of energy. My body feels good. I still have a lot of fighting to do before I'm done."
Should Branch prevail (and if this fight is included in the light heavyweight tournament) he will face Teddy Holder, who surprised many by finishing Thiago Silva in the first round at WSOF 19.
"You can't look past anybody," said Branch, who trains with GLORY middleweight Wayne Barrett and Bellator light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary. "Nobody is safe in there. I think Silva was definitely the favorite and more experienced . Maybe he looked past him or he had a lot going on with the opponents switching. I don't really know."
The middleweight/light heavyweight said he's not thinking about Holder at the moment, but had some words on his victory over Silva.
"I just think that he had a very impressive win for himself and that is good for him. He should enjoy it while he can," Branch suggested.
No fighter has ever held two titles at the same time in a major MMA promotion. Some have won titles in two divisions, but none have ever held two simultaneously.
Branch is gunning to make that a reality by winning the WSOF light heavyweight tournament and title.
"Vitor Belfort did it, Randy Couture did it, Dan Henderson did it and BJ has done it," said Branch, listing the fighters who have won titles in different weight classes. "Nobody has done it at the same time. Nobody has held two belts in two different weight classes at the same time, so that is history for me right there. I have a whole lot to fight for."
For more on WSOF 20, including live play-by-play and results, click here.
*Note: Dan Henderson did concurrently hold the welterweight and middleweight titles while in Pride Fighting Championships. No fighter has done it in the UFC, Bellator or WSOF.