'I'm on a nice streak': Brunson on Till fight, injuries heading in and what's next
Derek Brunson is trying to fight his way to a title shot in the UFC’s middleweight division and a rematch with champion Israel Adesanya.
Last Saturday, he added to his case with a third-round, submission victory over Darren Till in the main event of Fight Night in Las Vegas.
The win was his fifth victory in a row, second by way of a stoppage, since he lost to Adesanya via a first-round TKO at UFC 230 in November of 2018, prior to the 32-year-old champion capturing the title.
Former champion Robert Whittaker is slated to be the next middleweight to get a crack at the belt, but after that it could come down to either Brunson or Jared Cannonier, who last defeated Kelvin Gastelum on a Fight Night card in August.
As far as Brunson is concerned, a look at both fighter’s resumes is enough to tell you that after Whittaker, he should get the next shot at the gold.
“Look at my body of work,” Brunson told TSN. “I think Cannonier is 6-4 in the UFC, I’m 14-5 in the UFC. All the guys that I beat are still relevant, all the way down to Sam Alvey, Ed Herman, those guys are still in the UFC. When you look at Cannonier, a lot of the guys that he beat aren’t in the UFC. I have a lot of fights and a lot of wins in the UFC, I’m on a nice streak, I think body of work should mean something when it comes to this sport.”
What about the possibility of accepting a No. 1 contender fight between himself and Cannonier, if the winner was guaranteed to be next in line for the title? The Wilmington, N.C., native does not dismiss the idea, but isn’t ready to fully commit either.
“I can’t say that I wouldn’t,” said Brunson. “I kinda know how this game goes, I know what’s going to go on. I’m going to play my cards as I think they should be played, how I want it to go. At the end of the day, we’re all here to fight and I know it’s me, Jared Cannonier, Izzy and (Robert) Whittaker. Something can happen, Whittaker can get injured, then they’re going to need someone to fight Izzy for the title. So there are several options. My thing is, I’ve always tried to force things for all these years, now I just like to sit back a little bit, let it play out, take care of my business and that’s how I choose to do things now.”
After suffering a few defeats to the upper echelon middleweight fighters in the UFC, Brunson built himself back up with victories over a few over up and coming fighters, including snapping Ian Heinisch’s five-fight winning streak and hanging a first career loss on Edmen Shahbazyan.
Some began to see him as the gatekeeper of the middleweight division, but he felt it was his way back to the level he believed he belonged at in the first place.
“I never looked at it like that. I looked at it as, I wasn’t getting it done against the elite so in order to earn myself a title fight with those guys or back to the top, I gotta put in some work,” said Brunson. “Where as, whenever I lost to Izzy, let’s say a fight after that, no one was talking about me rematching Izzy, they were like, ‘he beat you pretty good.’ Now we’re talking about it, this is what I’ve earned and the body of work I’ve put in.”
The 37-year-old Brunson credits his ability to stay healthy and active with the hard work he’s put in since the day he started in the sport, something he plans to continue as he works his way towards the title shot.
“I take care of my body, I don’t look for any cheats. A lot of guys looked for PEDs and things like that and their body starts relying on it, where I’ve never done that,” said Brunson. “I train two times a day, I’ve done that from the beginning of my career to now, every single day. Where as I’ve trained with a lot of past veterans, guys that were pioneers of the sport and I’ll see them training super hard at the beginning of their career and by the time they get towards the end of their career, they may be training once a day, they’ll take two or three days off. I just keep the same routine that I had from the beginning up until now and it keeps my body in shape, keeps me going.”