Despite a statewide ban on professional mixed martial arts until last year, New York has produced its share of UFC champions.
Now David Branch wants to bring that pedigree into uncharted territory.
“I’m talking about somebody who’s been in the five boroughs,” Branch said. “They’re trying to shoot the arrow at the five boroughs.”
Brooklyn’s Branch begins his second stint in the UFC on Saturday when he faces Poland’s Krzysztof Jotko at UFC 211 in Dallas. After six years, the 35-year-old Bronx native returns as a two-weight World Series of Fighting champion with his eyes on the UFC’s middleweight belt.
Branch (20-3, 2-2 UFC) isn’t the first fighter in the UFC with ties to New York City — Rafael Natal, Oluwale Bamgbose, Randy Brown and others currently call the city home — but he believes he can tap into a missing market for the company.
“I think that me being a New York native and them wanting to reach a certain community, the urban demographic,” Branch said. “I think I’m a very good ambassador for that because that kind of demographic — they understand me.”
Branch has trained in the city his entire life, living “everywhere” around the Bronx and Brooklyn, eventually moving to Brownsville and now residing in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“I come from that background, I come from Brooklyn, I was raised in the hood, you understand?” Branch said. “I don’t have a college background, everything I’ve done is in the street and a lot of people know me. They’re going to reach a hardcore hip-hop background, they’re going to dip their hands into the boxing community, so it just makes sense.”
A Renzo Gracie black belt, he believes this background is a major marketing asset that will help him toward his championship goal even faster.
“If we go to New York, I’m going to pack the house like no other,” Branch said. “It only makes sense. Dollars make sense, it’s about putting [expletive] in seats and that’s what we’re here to do, this is business.”
Branch knows any potential chances at the division’s best go away if he starts losing, something he hasn’t done since 2012. His first task is to “beat the hell out of Krzysztof Jotko” before he can think about fighting for a belt.
“I’m gonna do something really nasty to him. That’s what I’ve gotta do first, that’s what I’m looking forward to,” Branch said. “I’m not looking past this kid, I’m not underestimating him. I’m just going to be very mean to him because this is what needs to happen.”