UFC's David Branch has overcome far greater obstacles than Luke Rockhold will ever present

David Branch defeated Krzsztof Jotko by split decision at UFC 211 last May. Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

According to oddsmakers, David Branch is about a 4-to-1 underdog against Luke Rockhold at UFC Fight Night this weekend in Pittsburgh.

Those numbers would imply that Branch (21-3), who is riding an 11-fight win streak, has less than a 20 percent chance to win Saturday's middleweight main event.

It's certainly worth mentioning, however, that Branch has already beaten far greater odds than that.

"I've overcome all kinds of adversity that are set forth for people in impoverished situations growing up," Branch told ESPN. "I was born into a situation that was designed for me to fail. The schooling, the food, the doctors -- everything around me was designed for failure and I was able to claw my out of the hole of despair."

Growing up in low-income areas of New York, Branch, 35, spent extended periods of his youth in group homes and juvenile detention centers.

He didn't meet his father (or "about 21" siblings on his father's side) until his mid-20s. He's admitted to dealing drugs, and serving time in a state prison.

"Just looking up at the sky and saying, 'What the f--- am I here for,'" said Branch, describing various moments of his childhood. "At one point in my life, I really didn't understand what my purpose was. I was only interested in surviving."

Branch's life changed when he was about 19, after he watched a VHS tape of an old UFC event and fell in love with it. He started training jiu-jitsu and entering competitions. He turned pro in 2007.

"I was raised in the 80s, when most cartoons were based around masculinity and one side versus another," Branch said. "I was a big movie-head -- Jean Claude Van Damme and Bloodsport. That idea of all these styles fighting each other. I see this tape of UFC and said, 'Man, this is pretty amazing.'"

Branch debuted with the UFC in his seventh professional fight, in 2010. The promotion released him one year later, after a 2-2 run.

Initially, Branch says he had no intention of re-signing with the UFC. Ever. The sudden way in which the UFC could elect to part ways left Branch feeling like he hadn't even really had a chance at all.

"When I left the UFC, I never wanted to come back," Branch said. "I was really turned off by the idea. I didn't understand the business aspect at this level, the politics, the media -- I didn't understand anything. I just got hit with a blast of reality and realized that unless you're winning and making an impact in this sport, people don't care about you."

In his second fight outside of the UFC, Branch fought Paulo Filho, a veteran from Brazil, whom Branch had watched and looked up to earlier in his life.

Filho was not in the prime of his career when they fought, but it was the first time Branch truly felt like an underdog. And the more he considered that position, the more comfortable he became. He says it inspired him, even. He has been unbeatable since.

"I realized people weren't confident in me winning and that's when some of this stuff came out inside me," Branch said. "That was that little boy who clawed his way out of oblivion, out of poverty and the slums. That was him resurfacing in this man's body and he started becoming more and more of who I am right now.

"I was able to channel certain things of my past and put them to use. I realized I've been the underdog my whole life. And I ran [Filho] over. That was one of the key moments of my career."

In Rockhold (15-3), Branch faces a former UFC champion who's flirted in and out of pound-for-pound rankings in recent years. Rockhold is three years younger and widely regarded as one of the top finishers in the division.

Speaking about Branch, Rockhold told ESPN, "He's a game opponent, but he's fought minor leaguers and he's no champion. I'll show him the difference between where I'm at and where he's at."

It's true. Branch should have his hands full on Saturday. But it would also be ludicrous to suggest he hasn't already overcome far greater obstacles than this.