David Branch is the kind of fighter who runs towards an impossible challenge rather than away from it.
Case in point, Branch returned to the UFC earlier this year with a win over Krzysztof Jotko that put him back into the top 10 rankings after a stint in World Series of Fighting where he served as both middleweight and light heavyweight champion.
Following that win, Branch could have easily made a steady climb up the rankings with another top 10 opponent while biding his time before tacking the top two or three fighters in the world.
But when a call came from the UFC offering him the chance to face former champion Luke Rockhold in the main event at UFC Fight Night in Pittsburgh there was zero hesitation from Branch to accept the fight.
Sure, Branch likes the opportunity to make a faster climb to the top of the division but the reality is he doesn’t place Rockhold into some god like status just because he’s a former champion with a better number next to his name in the rankings.
“I’ll fight anybody,” Branch told MMAWeekly ahead of his fight. “He’s a dangerous f–ker and I knew the two motherf–kers that nobody really wanted to fight in this division were Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero and I knew [Robert] Whittaker was busy. I’ll fight anyone of those guys. Yes, please. I don’t know what the big hooplah is about everybody being afraid. I want to do business.
“Every fight is a high risk fight. How is this fight any higher of a risk than any other fight I’ve fought? Because he’s Luke Rockhold? Get off the hype. He’s just a f–king man.”
Now just because Branch views Rockhold as just another opponent doesn’t mean he can’t see how good the former champion has been throughout his career.
Prior to his upset loss to Michael Bisping last year at UFC 199, Rockhold has put together an incredible winning streak while taking out several top names in the division including Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida.
Make no mistake, Branch knows how good Rockhold can be but that doesn’t mean he’s intimidated in any way, shape or form.
“I think that he’s a phenomenal athlete,” Branch said about Rockhold. “I think that’s one of the things that has carried him to the progress that he’s been able to achieve in mixed martial arts. I don’t know him. I don’t want to f–king know him. He’s a former UFC champion and I’m going to treat him as such and I’m going to prepare for him as such. When I go inside of the cage, I have no respect.”
Heading into the fight on Saturday night, Branch is back in familiar territory as the underdog while Rockhold will walk into the Octagon as the decided favorite.
As much as he doesn’t really pay too much attention to what odds makers are saying about his chances to win, Branch has been here before and there’s nothing much more satisfying that proving people wrong.
“I don’t care about that,” Branch said about being the underdog. “I remember one time when I fought Yushin Okami and there was something with the odds makers and said that I was going to lose. And I told them you guys are going to make my friends a lot of f–king money. Went out there and knocked the f–king guy out. My guys got paid.”
Even when it comes to his slot in the main event against Rockhold, Branch quickly downplays the importance of shining when the spotlight will undoubtedly be the brightest on him.
Branch is much more concerned with beating Rockhold, collecting a paycheck and then taking one more step towards a title shot that will get him paid even more.
“I just want to get my money and that’s it,” Branch said. “I want to get this belt, get my money and take care of my family. If people don’t want to give me my credit, I don’t give a s–t. They can act like it never happened.
“F–k a spotlight, I just want my cash.”