“I’m willing to go anywhere,” Branch told MMA Fighting. “I’d go to the friggin’ moon if I had a passport and a freakin’ space shuttle. That’s what I gotta do, man. We have to do this. It must be done. We have to get this out the way so we don’t have to worry about this anymore.”
Branch sees a fight with Souza as a natural progression if he wants to crack into the top five of the middleweight division. “Jacare” is holding down the No. 5 spot in the UFC’s official contender rankings and Branch is No. 7. Mathematically, it all makes sense, Branch said.
“I won my last one, he lost his last one,” Branch said. “It makes total sense. I’m not trying to play matchmaker — that’s not my job. But as a fighter, that’s the fight that I want. If you ask me who I’d like to call out, that’s the guy I’d like to do it with. He’s a warrior. He’s a fighter, he’s been fighting for a long time.”
The problem is Souza doesn’t seem to be interested in fighting Branch next. Souza’s manager told MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz this week that “Jacare” want someone higher in the rankings.
“It doesn’t make sense to fight Dave Branch now,” Faria said. “‘Jacare’ is not in a hurry, he will sit down like everyone else does and wait for a bigger fight. ‘Jacare’ has always fought opponents ranked lower than him, and it’s time to face someone ahead of him.”
Branch (22-4) is 2-1 in the UFC since coming back from World Series of Fighting, where he was the middleweight and light heavyweight champion. The New York native is coming off a first-round knockout win over Thiago Santos at UFC Atlantic City. Branch, 36, only has one loss — against Luke Rockhold — going back to 2012.
Souza (25-6, 1 NC) fought last month against fellow top contender Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 224, a close split decision loss. The Florida resident and Brazil native has dropped two of three with a first-round knockout of Derek Brunson in between losses to Gastelum and current champion Robert Whittaker.
Branch believes “Jacare” is clinging to his top spot unfairly.
“You can’t sit in a position like that and babysit,” Branch said. “There’s no babysitting.”
On whether or not he’s confident it will happen or not, Branch said he’s unsure. But he’s willing to do it at UFC Sao Paulo in September, he said.
“I think that we’re putting a lot of pressure on him,” Branch said. “He’s got the full-court press right now. Look, this is what it is. We’re real fighters. At the end of the day, that’s the fight that I’d like to fight. I think it’d be a great fight. I think it’s a fight that people would be interested in watching and I’m gonna g out there and I’m gonna fight hard as f*ck. I’m coming. I think that I’ve proved that already in the UFC. When they lock that cage, I’m f*cking coming after your ass.”
Branch believes the top five middleweights are holding down those spots and only fighting each other. And he thinks it’s time for some new additions to that mix.
“I don’t think he’s afraid,” Branch said. “I just think it’s a thing where a lot of the top-five fighters have been up there for a while. They’re all circumventing each other. They fight each other, they lose and they still stay in the top five. I want to be one of those fighters that bust in there and start bringing in new blood.”