On the rare occasions when fighters have dared to publicly ponder the notion of holding titles in two weight classes at once, really tends to be sobering.
Conor McGregor, of course, recently tried to go for double gold, only to lead to a chain of events with Nate Diaz no one could have foreseen. Seven years ago, then-UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn lost a one-sided fight against welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre. And once upon a time, an 8-0 Brandon Vera proclaimed he was going to hold the UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight belts; he's 6-7 since.
Maybe what they all missed was David Branch's humility. Branch, the World Series of Fighting light heavyweight and middleweight champion, treated the pursuit of two belts like it was no big thing.
"It wasn't like it was something I had as my big career goal," Branch, who defends his middleweight belt against Clifford Starks in the main event of WSOF 30 on Saturday, told MMAFighting.com. "I had the middleweight belt, they came to me and told me they needed another participant in their light heavyweight title tournament, and I said, sure, why the hell not? After that it just became a matter of, if you tell me I can't do something, that's when I get most determined to do it."
Branch, who won the middleweight belt in 2014, defeated Teddy Holder in the 205-pound tournament finals at WSOF 23, his seventh straight victory and ninth in his past 10 fights. That made him the sport's highest-profile dual weight-class champion since Dan Henderson held the PRIDE 183- and 205-pound titles in 2007.
But PRIDE folded before Henderson could defend either title following his knockout win over Wanderlei Silva in Las Vegas. Branch, a natural middleweight, wants to take things a step further and defend both belts.
"I want to defend both titles at least once," Branch said. "I want to be able to say I did it. After that, I'll reassess things, because you don't want to keep jumping back and forth [in weight], but I mean, I've already got both so why not take the next step?"
Of course, Branch can't afford to look too far ahead, not when he's got the veteran Starks in front of him. Starks (13-2) is unbeaten at 5-0 since losing to Yoel Romero in the UFC, and Branch seems to be taking Starks' presence personally. Starks' first two WSOF fights we held at light heavyweight, before dropping down and defeating Krasimir Mladenov at WSOF 23.
"He cut the line," Branch said. "He thought he had an easier path to a title fighting me. He comes out on the night I won the light heavyweight title and went out of his way to call me out. You want to do that? That's cool, that's business, but you best believe I'm going to remember it and you're going to pay for your words."
Branch has figured out how he's going to win the fight, too.
"I'm knocking him the hell out," Branch said. "I'm going to separate him from his consciousness. It's probably not going to take too long, either. He's the type of fighter that gets more comfortable the longer the fight goes, so I'm not going to give him time to get comfortable. I don't care if he knows because there's nothing he's going to be able to do about it."
While Branch has by and large had tunnel vision for this fight, the New Yorker and Renzo Gracie Academy competitor hasn't completely been in a bubble: He's well aware MMA is about to become legal in New York State. So as he got ready to make the cross-country trip to the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas for his NBCSN-broadcast fight on Saturday night, he allowed himself to dream a little bit about fighting at home.
"Oh man, that would be the best," Branch said. "I"m New York through and through. I grew up in the Bronx. To be able to take the train to my fight, and have all my people come out and see me compete, and then take the train home that night. That would be a dream come true. I haven't heard anything yet but you know [WSOF] has to be thinking of having a show here."