World Series of Fighting (WSOF) is gearing up for its big August 1st show in Las Vegas, Nevada, headlined by welterweight champion Rousimar Palhares defending his title against top 170-pound contender Jake Shields.
The show will also feature a bantamweight title defense for Marlon Moraes against the undefeated Sheymon Moraes. Thiago Silva, Mike Kyle, Islam Mamedov and Jimmy Spicuzza will also be in action.
Marlon Moraes and David Branch will be both be in-studio guests for a special WSOF broadcast on July 11th called "Unstoppable: The Road Ahead" airing on NBC (sneak peek here). As the middleweight champion and light heavyweight tournament semifinalist, he's a featured part of the show in both highlight clips and interviews.
MMAmania.com caught up with Branch when he was alone at the gym training on the eve of July 4th, and compared the discipline of training that hard on a holiday weekend to "being in jail" and not letting himself out of prison for a moment.
"Me doing this, a lot of guys aren't doing this. A lot of guys don't just come to gym, by themselves, without coaches and push themselves. I know what it takes. I know what I have to do. I'm already a world champion and I'm still hungry, it's not enough. I've got to eat this soup with a fork. The moment that I start to get full and I'm no longer hungry, is the day I'm gonna walk away from this game."
His hunger for competition in two weight classes is impressive, and Branch wants WSOF to acquire the best of the best fighters available for him to face.
"I know that I have a checklist, and the checklist involves just me being the best champion ever in the history of World Series of Fighting, right now. I want to fight the best fighters in the world. I can just let you know personally, that I would like to fight the best in the world and beat the best in the world, so that when I'm an old fart and I sit down on my porch and I sit and think about what I did, I know that I fought the best of the best in their prime."
Branch believes his next fight is with Teddy Holder for the light heavyweight tournament final, and he's setting a target date for that fight around September. Branch can visualize that second title around his waist at this very moment.
"I always train with the memory of losing, of not having my hand raised, and it makes me even more angry. It makes me want to dig even deeper into the gym, and work even harder. I think that's one of the things that keeps me on top."
It may sound cocky or conceited to the outsider looking in, but Branch knows what it's like to overcome adversity in a fight, such as taking a five-round middleweight title fight against Yushin Okami, despite a serious injury.
"I had no right bicep tendon in that fight. All my takedowns and everything as far as grappling was out the window, so I had to make an adjustment and go straight to striking. It bothers me a little bit because (the media) was saying that he was the better grappler. I honestly think I was going to embarrass him in grappling."
In fact, Branch didn't plan to knock out Okami at all, he wanted to prove a point to the media and the world.
"I wanted to show the world that I can take him down and submit him or I can just keep him in bad positions round after round after round. I wanted to do what he's done to guys over the years, I wanted to beat him at his own game. Because I suffered a torn bicep tendon, I had to switch the game. Once I started to find my mark and I knew that I had a bead on him, in the fourth round, that's when I just kicked it up. I went back to my corner and my boxing coach said, 'Stop playing around with this guy, just knock this guy out.'"
And that's exactly what Branch did at 3:39 of the fourth round, and then in his first fight of the light heavyweight tournament he showed off a rare Von Flue choke against Jesse McElligott. With a diversified portfolio of finishes (one third each by striking, submissions and decisions) Branch is ready for whatever comes next.
"The guy that I fear the most is the guy that I've become. I've become the guy that I train for. I will have (the title). It's not going to go any other way. When I get in there, I want people to say 'God damn, this guy didn't stand a chance.' That's how I want all of my fights to be."
The compete audio of our interview is below, and complete coverage of World Series of Fighting lives here at MMAmania.com. Be sure to check out "Unstoppable: The Road Ahead" July 11th on NBC (check your local listings).