Dave Branch (UFC 116) Survives Bad Times, Bad Habits to Reach UFC
BRANCH SURVIVES BAD TIMES, BAD HABITS TO REACH UFC
Dave Branch has lived through some bad times, and some bad habits.
But he says his life took an unlikely turn for the better when a crackhead offered to sell him some video tapes in a seedy fast-food restaurant in the Bronx.
Branch bought the video of UFC 3 for three dollars. Some nine years later, after cleaning up his act and taking up martial arts, the middleweight from the Bronx is poised to put on his own UFC show.
Branch (6-0) makes his UFC debut Saturday against Gerald (Hurricane) Harris at UFC 116 in the glitz of Las Vegas, a far cry from the tough, impoverished Bronx neighbourhood of Soundview that was his home growing up.
"I've come a long way from being locked up, in prisons, Rikers Island, group home, being homeless," the 28-year-old fighter told The Canadian Press.
"I've been through a lot, selling drugs, robbing, stealing to eat."
Branch, who says he's been fighting all his life, was in need of some direction when he came across that UFC tape that night.
"I was doing construction, just working odd jobs here and there. Just trying to get money and eat and get some clothes and put some money together so I could get myself a room, because at the time I was homeless. I was living with my brother."
He bought the tape and some beer, went back to his brother's and watched Royce Gracie "devastating people."
"He didn't win that tournament but I said that this is something that I have to do. I would just love to do it. And after I saw that, that was just my calling. That changed up my life, big time."
Branch found a local martial arts school, the Five Rings Centers in Brooklyn. He later discovered it was traditional jiu-jitsu instead of Brazilian jiu-jitsu but stayed there until his instructor hooked him up with Mike Casey and Gary Gli at the Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
"(After six months) I did my first tournament, stopped smoking weed and I won, I won the gold medal, and then I won three other tournaments afterwards," Branch recalled. "I never started smoking weed again, I didn't drink anymore and it just changed my life. I started eating good, I started getting rest, I started managing my money a little bit better, I started feeling good about myself.
"After that I just started competing all over the country, winning tournaments, jiu-jitsu competitions."
He spent four years as an Ironworker, a member of Local 580 before quitting to follow his martial arts road.
"When I was sitting on that steel a thousand feet in the air, I realized that that's something I didn't want to do," he said. "I respected the guys that did it because they were hard-working blue-collar guys but something else was calling me in life and I didn't want to miss my opportunity.
"And a lot of the older guys used to tell me 'You know you need to get it while you're young, kid. Get out of this business. The money's good but that's how it keeps you here."'
Today, Branch is still in New York but now he's a black belt in jiu-jitsu under Renzo Gracie and trains full time.
"I noticed the difference," he said of the move to full-time training three fights ago. "I was just running through guys. I had time to focus on my just training alone."
Branch says his MMA goal is "to put on a beautiful demonstration of destruction for the crowd and just keep on going until I reach my goal."
"I'm not fighting MMA just to fight and collect a cheque. I'm doing it to become a middleweight champion."
Determination, he notes, is one of his major assets.
Branch did not have much growing up with his mother, brother and sister. His father was not part of the picture.
"My mother she did the best that she could. You know she always told us that we'd get one meal a day, but we've got to do the rest. Me and my older brother, we'd go to the store and we'd steal a Snickers bar and we'd steal food so that we can eat."
There was also a bit of an entrepreneur in the young Branch. He sold newspapers and, after getting some cake batter from his mother, began to sell cakes.
Fighting was always on the menu.
"I came from a hard family. Like my uncles fought, my mom fought. She was in a gang before," he said. "My mother would say 'If you don't bust his ass, I'm going to bust your ass.' That was the famous saying.
"I had to fight. That was the kind of family I came from. Like if somebody had a problem, if my mom found out someone was bullying me, she would tie her hair up and put her Spandex on and her PRO-Keds and we would go downstairs and take care of business."
Branch only recently connected with his father, after one of his coaches -- a detective -- helped locate him. That has opened the door to the other side of Branch's family, including two brothers (Sechew Powell and Jamelle Hamilton) who are pro boxers.
Harris, Branch's opponent Saturday night on the undercard of the Brock Lesnar-Shane Carwin heavyweight title fight, is 2-0 in the UFC and has won 15 of 17 fights overall.
But Branch believes he has the edge over the former high school teacher and wrestling coach.
"I have nothing but respect for Gerald. I don't have anything against him, no kind of animosity," he said. "But I'll just say this one thing. I think he's aptly named. I think that they gave him a name that is fitting for him. I think they call him the Hurricane because he's sloppy in his destruction. A hurricane it doesn't destroy things in a beautiful fashion. I think he has a really good name and he's going to be in the ring with a different kind of animal."
Branch says it is his time to shine.
"A lot of people talk about these UFC first-time jitters and things of that nature, (but) this is where I thrive. Certain people thrive, a special fighter will thrive in any situation that you put him in whether it's in someone else's hometown, in another country, they're just always going to rise to the occasion and I think that I'm one of those guys.
"I think I'm going to be one of the special fighters."
Cool, join our UFC 116 Lesnar vs Carwin discussion here:
UFC 116: Lesnar vs Carwin, July 3, 2010 - No BS MMA and Martial Arts
This guy's an inspiration, I'll be rooting for him!
So is this supposed to be a sob story, an inspirational tale of a man that overcame adversary and made it to the UFC? Didnt we already get that crap from that TUF winner?
Give me a break, what an attention whore that guy is. Doing drugs and drinking is a choice, not a disease..
Ignorant. There are plenty of users that try and self medicate their own chemical imbalances.
Originally Posted by Draven
Dont talk about something you know jack **** about.
If the story has been told before good. Hopefully it will get told again with a different fighter.
Better than repeated stories of fighters bashing their girlfriends.
So he gets a great big good on him from me
Good for this guy. I hope he does well. Though I will say the first half of the article sounded like a Gracie advertisement. :)
Originally Posted by Draven
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