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There are a multitude of fighters who boast about their commitment to self-evolution.

Yet many are just men journeying the same paths the rest of the MMA faithful pursue. But outside of that pool stands David Branch, a man known for his ability to reign over two weight divisions simultaneously. The WSOF dual champion is a man committed to self-preservation and self-improvement in more ways than one might expect.

Heading into his third middleweight title defense against Louis Taylor at WSOFNYC on December 31st, the Bronx native incorporated the use of ballet into his training camp. We already know Branch is one of the only men alive to hold two belts simultaneously as well as defend them, but now he may be the first and only MMA fighter in the mainstream to swear by the use ballet for his training regiment.

“The first day I went, it was harder than any workout I’ve ever done,” said Branch.

 

“It was harder than lifting weights or anything else, it was so difficult… I feel it in my balance. I feel it in my overall physical strength. I feel it everywhere. Just in my posture and I feel like when I get into scrambles in a fight or anything fighting wise that involves entanglement and striking, I feel so strong. It’s natural strength you know?”

Branch is expressive and gracious of his use of ballet, proving that humility has a home among the often-brutal confines of MMA. The two-weight world champion has spent the last two years making historical leaps in his career through his pursuit of self-evolution. It’s thanks to Branch’s constant implementation of new forms of training that allows him longevity in the unforgiving sport of MMA.

“I’m about 35 years old and I believe I’m a young 35-year-old fighter because I haven’t taken a lot of punishment in my career but as you get older you need to start changing your training,” said Branch.

For Branch, ballet is just one avenue that he uses to attain his goal of becoming a better athlete. In fact, the middleweight king sees the realm of MMA void of fighters willing to discover the benefits of unconventional training methods.

“You can’t afford to take the same banging that you took when you were younger,” Branch said. “And I don’t want to resort to the same old thing everyone is doing. I also want to do Italian classical fencing, or any kind of fencing, which is also geared to ballet. Doing yoga, rock climbing and thinking outside the box to get that natural strength.”

Good morning yall. Fight week is here in NYC for @davidbranch32 as he puts the finishing touches before fighting and defending his @worldseriesoffighting middleweight crown inside the Theater at Madison Square Garden for the first time now that mixed martial arts is legal is New York. This week I’ll be devoting a couple of panels to take yall through the champ camp and the rest of the week’s activities all the way to fight night. As always, the training camps are grueling, yet tailored intelligently on what David needs and new ideas and methods implemented into making him the dangerous and cerebral fighter that he is, like what this picture shows. An idea used in the past by boxers like Muhammed Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson, David started to incorporate ballet into his training. In the past, boxers and many football players use ballet in their training to increase their flexibility and footwork,improve their balance and have more control over their bodies alot more through the rigors of the ballet training using their body properly. Having said all that, this method for David as been just as rigorous as his other training preparing for his upcoming title defense bout.Having seen what he’s been experiencing from this style of dance, its gonna be interesting how he starts to incorporate ballet into the fight. 📸:@anthonybgeathers #monochrome #tellingstories #warjournal #mma #worldseriesoffighting #prizefighting #makeportraits #portraits #thechampthatrunsthecamp #worldchampion #middleweightchampion #worldtitle #gamebreed #animalstatus #elegant #ballet #newways #traindifferent #canon #estheticlabel

A photo posted by Anthony B. Geathers (@anthonybgeathers) on

 
Since becoming champion, it’s been clear that Branch’s most dangerous form comes through in his technical ability to slowly kill off an opponent along with his use of movement. But it all starts with an open mindset and that’s why he believes he is ever evolving.

“I already train single style disciplines and getting all these elements from all these different arts will ultimately help me in the cage,” said Branch.

“Mixing all the elements you take [with different forms of training] and in martial arts is the true meaning of mixed martial arts. It’s not about training the same old mumbo jumbo and stirring it into one pot, you have to really go out there and get the true essence of everything and implement it into your game to the way you see fit according to your personality.”

Considering Branch has one of the most colorful personalities in MMA, it only makes sense for the WSOF champion to add multiple training backgrounds to his fighting arsenal.

Photos: WSOFNYC’s David Branch vs. Louis Taylor Middleweight Title Fight