Some fighters got into mixed martial arts through their background in a discipline like wrestling or judo. Some simply watched an event with their friends and got hooked.
World Series of Fighting middleweight champion David Branch, however, had a unique road to MMA glory. Branch, who defends his title against Yushin Okami on Nov. 15, claims "a crackhead" had an unwitting role in helping to turn his life around and lead him on the path to athletic triumph.
"It was actually a crackhead on a 157th Street and Crotona Avenue," Branch said on a recent edition of The MMA Hour. "I bought a UFC 3 tape from a crackhead at a chicken store, and I bought it for eight dollars, or six bucks, something like that, and I went home and watched it with my brother and I said this is what I want to do."
Up until that point, Branch, a New York City native, spent his youth getting in and out of trouble.
"I grew up poor, no food, very little to eat, wearing the same clothes, being picked on sometimes," Branch said. "No dad, mom raising four kids on her own. Having to fend for myself, being out on my own since I was 15. I've just been through a lot. A little too much, but a whole lot."
It wasn't a straight path from there to professional fighting - Branch said it took one more stint in jail before he finally committed to getting on the straight and narrow, once and for all - but the night he sat down to watch an old UFC tape, everything changed.
"I went home to get a six-pack of beer, and I sat down and watched the UFC with my brother," Branch said. "And we're smoking a joint, and I said I want to do this, and he looked at me and said ‘get the hell out of here, you're being weird.' Six years later, I'm inside the Octagon at the MGM Grand."