David Branch will make his ONE Championship debut against Leandro Ataides at ONE: Full Circle on February 25, but his future with the promotion is very much up in the air. Branch (22-7) has had an impressive MMA career, previously reigning as a two-division champion in the defunct World Series of Fighting organisation and going 4-5 over the course of two runs in the UFC. However, the American is now 40 years old and has not fought since he was submitted by Alexander Shlemenko at a regional MMA event in Russia in 2019. Based on that, ONE chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong was initially reluctant to sign Branch, but after being pushed by the fighter’s manager Ali Abdelaziz, ultimately agreed to a one-fight deal. “This signing is a one-fight deal with David Branch,” Chatri told the Post. “Ali Abdelaziz, his manager, was pounding the table for the last six months, almost every week. Finally we said we’ll do it.” “I think David Branch is obviously a phenomenal athlete, a world champion, but ONE is not in the business of signing 40-year-olds who might be past their prime,” he added. “I want superstars that are in their prime, or rising stars that have the potential to be global superstars. That’s our bread and butter. “But Ali and I have a good relationship. We’re part of the Renzo Gracie family and Ali just kept on pestering to the point [where I said] ‘OK, let’s do one fight.’” Heavyweight champ Bhullar finally agrees new ONE deal Chatri isn’t sure what the future holds for Branch in ONE Championship, but suspects the American’s imminent debut against Ataides should clear that up. “If David doesn’t do so well, the answer will be very apparent,” he said. “If he does well then we can definitely sit down and talk for real.” Despite his suspicions that Branch could be on the decline, Chatri was adamant that he does hold the American MMA veteran in high regard. View this post on Instagram A post shared by David Branch (@davidbranch32) “Respect to David. He is a phenomenal athlete, a really good human being, a Renzo Gracie black belt,” Chatri said. “It’s just that for me, I’m not sure if that makes sense to invest in a brand new signing when the athlete is a little bit older. If the athlete has been with us for awhile and has a great track record, that’s different.” The ONE: Full Circle card will be headlined by a middleweight title fight between champion Reinier de Ridder, and challenger Kiamrian Abbasov, who holds the ONE welterweight title. It will also feature a trilogy fight between former middleweight champions Aung La N Sang and Vitaly Bigdash.