Derek Brunson’s training camp was moving along at just the right pace when suddenly, the fight card he was gearing up for was scrapped. When UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo withdrew from the main event, UFC 176 was canceled. The event was supposed to emanate from Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Aug. 2.
Though the UFC middleweight will now square off with Lorenz Larkin on Aug. 30 at UFC 177 in Sacramento, he explained to MMA Fight Corner how the change affected him.
“Oh yea, [the cancellation] definitely stung and hurt a lot actually,” Brunson said. “I had a lot of summer plans. I was going to enjoy the rest of my summer, but that kind of put a halt on plans. And I had to not train to rest, to kind of refocus. I had to take a couple days off to let my body recover a little bit because I was going pretty hard because I was expecting to fight on the second. I was trying to peak at the right time.
“It definitely wasn’t the ideal situation, but it happened. So I dealt with it and got back, refocused.”
Boasting a professional MMA record of 11-3, Brunson last fought in January. He faced Yoel Romero, an Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling. Though Brunson was able to takedown Romero three times and was dominating in the first two rounds, Brunson was stopped by vicious elbow strikes in the third. In the aftermath, it was revealed that Brunson’s jaw was broken.
Once he recovered, Brunson aimed to get back on track. His training camp for Larkin has been based in his native North Carolina and the 30-year old was moving full steam ahead, eager to rebound from his first UFC loss.
It’s not easy for a fighter to concentrate their energy on physically peaking on a certain date only to see it scratched. Brunson was nearing that point of his camp when he learned the card was off. He had to scale back his intense training regimen to hit his stride about a month later.
“Training as if you have a fight year round is pretty much impossible because you’re putting so much wear and tear on your body when you step up in your cardio,” explained Brunson. “That breaks your body down and you definitely have to have time to recover. But it’s all worth it whenever you have a fight coming up, because you get that last week to recover when you’re working on making weight in the week of the fight.
“I was pushing my body a lot. I just took a couple days off just to recover and to get my mind back focused and be a little bit angry that I’m not fighting on the second. And like I said, I had to refocus after that.”
Simply put, Brunson is picking himself up and moving past the hurdles in front of him. After his broken jaw sidelined him longer than he would have liked, all he has his sights set on is rebounding into the win column. Despite raking the Fight of the Night bonus at UFC Fight Night 35, Brunson was disappointed with his loss to Romero. His goal is to make headway in the division, starting with a win over Larkin.
“You’re only as good as your last fight,” Brunson said. “You lose fans and gain fans every fight. It’s one of those sports, you’ve got to be on point everytime you go out there. To go out there and not get the job done, it kind of stings. Like this last fight, I was the underdog in the fight, but I go into every fight expecting to win.
“After training for the fight and going into the fight, I always expect to win no matter who I’m fighting. So not getting the win, especially how it played out toward the end how everything went, I was just man..it stung and it still stings. And that’s why I was so anxious to get back in the cage and I still am. I have to everyday remind myself, you know, to just train, train, train and focus on training and just don’t even worry about the fight, just kind of let it come.”
Brunson’s already shown he can hang with veterans, like he did against Chris Leben on just 10 days notice in his promotional debut. At UFC 155 he upset Leben and notched a unanimous decision win. He followed that up with a 48 second submission of Brian Houston. The more familiarity Brunson gets in the Octagon, he believes he’ll become one of the top dogs in the division.
“Honestly, I think I’m one of the better middleweights in the world. I think I’m up there with the top guys in the world, I just have to get more experience.”
Derek Brunson vs. will take place at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Ca on Aug. 30 at UFC 177. The main event of the pay-per-view is a title rematch between current UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barao. The bout order is not yet set.