By: Nick Portella
What’s good fight fans? Today I had the pleasure to sit down with Bellator light heavyweight Branko Busick. Branko made his pro debut fighting up at heavyweight at Bellator 178, unfortunately, losing via decision, but showed massive promise to be a future threat in MMA. Let’s have a seat with Branko and get to know a little more about him.
Branko began his sports career at a young age. He has wrestled since the age of 4 and played football at the age of 6. It has taken off from there. His father was a WWE wrestler so growing up wrestling was a must for him. In his high school football years, he was a defensive player winning two state titles and one runner-up. His wrestling stats were also on the rise. Junior and senior year he chalked up a record of 84 wins and 2 losses. He received a scholarship to play football at West Virginia University and left high school after his senior year of wrestling to start playing college ball. He did very well for three years when the summer of 2011 hit. He told me that he got off track and made some wrong choices which got him arrested. He was faced with two 10-20 year prison sentences but took a plea for 5 years of probation which ended early due to good behavior. He went back to college and played football for California Pennsylvania and left his junior year to the NFL. He admits he did not make the team cuts, but his true passion through all of this was mixed martial arts.
Fast forwarding to the present he continues to train in all disciplines, but his base remains wrestling. He remembered growing up watching Mark Coleman win the earlier UFC events. Now that his mixed martial arts career is in full swing landing his professional debut fight with Bellator he finds his training ground in Steubenville Ohio. He said that he has plenty of family and friends that help him get to where he needs to be. UFC veteran Branden Hinkle is like his big brother and has been with him since the age of 7. Not a bad person to have on your side when combat sports is how you make your living. Nick Devrnja is another great friend of his. He told me that Nick helps him keep his cardio on point. Branko said that he makes him comfortable being uncomfortable. He is also a family man and being near his home, beautiful wife, and daughter is also very important to him.
Branko does have a fighting history behind him. He was 5-1 as an amateur MMA fighter, 5-0 as an amateur boxer, and 1-0 as a professional boxer. When asked about why he went to pro-MMA when he did he told me that he felt he was ready to test his abilities and stand with the best in the world. Every fighter I believe brings something to the table. I wanted to know what he thought his best attribute was inside the cage. Branko’s answer was simple. He believes that he is cut from a different cloth when it comes to being tough in certain situations in the cage.
At Bellator 178 he faced a tough opponent in undefeated Tyrell Fortune. Tyrell is a heavyweight while Branko is a light heavyweight. Stepping off of the scale at weigh-ins Branko was 24.5 pounds lighter than his opponent. Branko told me that he was scheduled to fight at 205 pounds three weeks before he got the call-up from Bellator. He walks around at 215 so the cut for him is easy and does not affect him in any way. Hard training during camp gets his body where it needs to be. 205 is his actual division, but he could not pass up the opportunity. He also added that when he got the call he was at 208 pounds and was able to get his weight up top 213 by fight night. It must be an obstacle to overcome having someone outweigh you by so much and have to stand with him in the cage. Branko said he could definitely feel the weight difference when you’re grinding it out against the cage. He was comfortable coming into the fight as such an underdog. He knew the only way to gain respect in the cage is to fight anyone that came his way.
All three judges scored the fight 29-27 in favor of his opponent despite the point deduction and the fact that he dropped his opponent once. I wanted to know if he felt the score reflected the actual fight. Branko did feel like the fight was closer than the scorecard portrayed.
Since Branko has made the journey in combat sports to the bright light and national airing of Bellator I wanted him to give out one tip for the guys just starting the climb to be the best. He said that the best tip he could give to the young guys is to do it if you truly love it. This isn’t a sport for people that want a hobby. It takes a lot of hard sparring in every aspect of MMA. You must be a student of the game.
I enjoyed talking with Branko. He is a great person and a true student of the sport. I am excited to see him in the cage again especially at his correct weight class. He will be one to watch out for in the future. Signing off for TheMMAtakeOver.com this is Nick Portella. @NickPortellaMMA