We love hearing about professional athletes "seeing the light," a.k.a. realizing the benefits of ballet training. (We also enjoy watching them suffer while trying to learn from Miami City Ballet's Nathalia Arja.)
The latest athlete to admit to being a bunhead comes from the brutal world of mixed martial arts. According to a recent story reported by the World Series of Fighting, David Branch, the middleweight and light heavyweight champion of the world, swears by ballet classes.
“The first day I went, it was harder than any workout I've ever done," Branch told wsof.com. "I feel it in my balance. I feel it in my overall physical strength. I feel it everywhere. Just in my posture and I feel like when I get into scrambles in a fight or anything fighting wise that involves entanglement and striking, I feel so strong. It's natural strength, you know?"
His teacher is Dmitri Roudnev, a former Bolshoi Ballet soloist who gives private lessons in New York, and is mostly known for helping dancers overcome injury through his holistic approach to technique.
On Instagram, Branch writes that he was inspired to start taking dance classes after watching Alvin Ailey dancers. Though it couldn't have hurt that Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson also reportedly trained in dance to improve their fighting.
Branch may still have a ways to go before he can hold his own alongside pro dancers. But if Sugar Ray Robinson's example is anything to go by, it's not out of the question. The charismatic boxing legend was a devoted tap dancer—and even left boxing behind for three years to try his luck in showbiz. In 1958, he teamed up with none other than Gene Kelly for a number called "Dancing: A Man's Game" on the TV series "Omnibus."