Fighting in his hometown presents a certain level of comfort for David Branch.
That level, however, won’t move too high on the meter for the Brooklyn resident and defender of his World Series of Fighting middleweight title on New Year’s Eve inside The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Branch plans to treat this fight — his first in New York since the 19-year ban on MMA was lifted last March — just like any other. He’ll stay at the fighter hotel and do all the things he normally would do during fight week in any other city besides his own.
“I’m there to fight, there’s somebody there to take my title and I need to be cognizant of these things,” Branch said. “Being in the element of that is going to keep me more sharp and more prepared. If I start going home, lay in my own bed, it doesn’t feel right. You don’t get those same nerves, the same things that make you alive, the things that keep you protected, the things that keep you from getting hurt inside the cage. I need all of those elements to exist.”
Branch, a two-weight WSOF champion, will defend his 185-pound title against Louis Taylor. The bout is one of four title fights at WSOF NYC, the promotion’s first card in New York.
Branch, 35, said he is looking forward to the hometown fight more for business purposes than just the thrill of fighting in an arena he has walked by thousands of times.
“I’m a business person and I’m also about fighting,” said Branch, who owns a jiu-jitsu and MMA academy in Hoboken, New Jersey. “Fighting is just something I do, it’s not who I am. It’s a real good way to get those cash injections. I’m using my body right now to do those things because I know that’s not gonna be something I’m gonna be able to do forever. I’m using that to build elsewhere. So I’m really excited about it being in New York because that’s where my network is. Having my fights close to my network equals business. That’s how I see it.
“A lot of fighters like to fight just to post pictures and get girls. I don’t do these things for that. I do fighting to generate cash, and I generate cash to do business, and I take it very seriously.”
Branch (19-3) is on a nine-fight winning streak, which includes also winning the WSOF light-heavyweight title. Taylor (13-3) has won six straight fights, four of which came by first-round submission. His other two wins in that run were via a first-round knockout and a second-round submission.
Branch grew up in the Bronx and lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. He trains at Renzo Gracie Academy in Manhattan. In RGA at any point for jiu-jitsu training could be Frankie Edgar, Chris Weidman or Rafael Natal, all of whom fought at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden last month. Did Branch ask them about the experience of fighting close to home in front of a largely New York-based crowd?
“Absolutely not,” he said. “Me fighting here, and being a true New Yorker, and passing Madison Square Garden millions and millions of times since I was a child, being in there and fighting in there is not gonna be something that’s gonna put pressure on me. I don’t need mental preparation for it.”
Branch has competed in MMA for nearly 10 years and has had 22 professional bouts.
“What kind of mental preparation do you need with a guy like me?” Branch said. “I’ve been in every single type of event there is to have. If I don’t have it together by now, fighting at Madison Square Garden, if that’s a problem for me mentally, maybe I need to switch professions.”