Following a much needed victory at UFC Ottawa, Derek Brunson is willing to “let these guys fight each other a little bit.” The upcoming Abu Dhabi card, however, does interest him.
Ottawa, ON — Derek Brunson needed a win at UFC Ottawa. Make no mistake about it. Heading into the Fight Night show in the rainy Canadian capital over the weekend, Brunson was 2-4 in his last six fights. On a two fight losing streak. Still in the co-main event, against Elias Theodorou. But in dire need of a victory to stay relevant.
Yes, his losses had come to top names. Jacare Souza. Anderson Silva. Israel Adesanya. Brunson had made adjustments as a result, moving at least partially to Hard Knocks 365 in Florida, under the tutelage of Henri Hooft. Brunson spoke about all that beforehand.
In the end, the change paid off. But perhaps what was most notable was that Brunson proved he was more than just a knockout artist.
“I’m a knockout guy. In my previous wins, I think all of my last seven wins, I got knockouts in the first round,” Brunson told reporters including Cageside Press following UFC Ottawa.
Six, actually, but close. Brunson’s last decision came against Lorenz Larkin in 2014. That was UFC 177. His next six wins all came by KO/TKO. The losses as well, except for a decision defeat against Anderson Silva.
“To come out here and to get a decision after a rough year, it feels good,” the middleweight said. “Now I’ve got that built in my mind, I can go the distance with a guy who’s known for his cardio, who moves around a lot, pretty much had to chase a little bit. So I can take my time, be patient at knocking guys out still.”
The fight with Theodorou, with his tricky, karate-inspired style, was something else. “It’s different, especially when a guy’s moving back. You have to stay engaged, and kind of move forward a little bit. He’s kind of wanting you to move forward, so he can explode in.” And it all boiled down to Brunson finding that Theodorou “was harder to hit than I thought.”
In the end, Brunson opted to let Elias come forward, and counter punch him. It worked out. He even had a great moment with a slam – but admitted that, in the moment, he was concerned with knocking himself out. Thinking back to ‘The Monkey God’ Jarred Brooks doing just that at UFC Utica.
It didn’t happen. Brunson got the win, and coming out, was beaming. “I feel good. I made a lot of sacrifices. You don’t really start doubting yourself, but you start to be like ‘okay, what’s going on here? You’re not getting it done in the key moments.’ So I got to kind of take a step back, and I got to make sure I focus in and pick up some momentum.”
Fights always seem to have a narrative around them, whether it’s manufactured or not. Leading into Brunson vs. Theodorou, plenty of attention was paid to the idea that a win might finally break the Canadian into the top ten at middleweight. Brunson, however, upset those plans.
Agreeing the fight could have been that sort of boost for Theodorou, Brunson noted that “he definitely needed that, that’s what he needed. He’s 28, 29, 30, something like that. I’m 35. You gotta beat a name guy. You gotta beat a guy who’s beaten guys. I’ve had some great fights, I’ve fought Lyoto, Anderson, everybody.”
“In order to get there, you have to beat somebody. So I was his opportunity to beat a name person, you know.” As for what comes next for him, it’s “whoever else. We’re going to take some time, enjoy this win, look at the things that we did wrong, make some improvements, keep working, and we’re going to try to get a big fight going forward.”
It doesn’t seem like he’s in a hurry. “We just gonna sit back. We’re going to sit back and let it develop.” Perhaps more tellingly, he’d later add that “I’m going to let these guys fight each other a little bit.”
Yet one location does stick out. “I saw Abu Dhabi, that would be nice. I haven’t been there. I fought all across the U.S., Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Canada. Yeah, maybe venture outside of the country.”
Brunson, from North Carolina, also mentioned UFC Greenville, though that one might just be a little too soon. “Maybe I’ll go hang out, maybe I’ll try to get on that card. Who knows.”