Former UFC middleweight contender Derek Brunson believes his final two Octagon outings could have played out very differently.
Brunson’s departure was confirmed last month following more than 10 years competing on mixed martial arts’ biggest stage. During that stint, he recorded victories over the likes of Chris Leben, Uriah Hall, Lyoto Machida, Kevin Holland, and Darren Till.
Despite his successes under the UFC banner, Brunson was unable to secure an opportunity at championship glory. That was most recently the case last year, when a brutal knockout loss to Jared Cannonier in their title eliminator pushed him away from contention.
The 39-year-old subsequently failed to return to the title picture this past March at UFC 285, where he was stopped in round two by the surging Dricus Du Plessis.
Although he was initially booked to return against Roman Dolidze this November, Brunson was granted his release and later joined fellow ex-UFC fighters like Shane Burgos and Thiago Santos under the Professional Fighters League banner.
Ahead of his debut for the PFL later this year, Brunson has dismissed the notion that the losing skid he exited the UFC on the back of shows he is past his best.
Brunson: I Beat Cannonier & Du Plessis ‘9 Out Of 10 Times’
During an interview with ESPN MMA’s Marc Raimondi, Brunson reflected on the two results he concluded his stint in the sport’s premier promotion with.
Despite emphatic second-round stoppages in both contests, the veteran highlighted his performances in the opening frames. Against Cannonier and Du Plessis, Brunson earned 10-9s in his favor on all six scorecards.
The finishes that succeeded the good starts, Brunson claims, derived from cardio issues that are now in the rear-view mirror.
“I like myself against anybody,” Brunson said. “Cannonier, that first round could have been a 10-8. Dricus, that fight I definitely won the first round 10-9. I lost these second rounds more on my own demise. I haven’t been doing road work for the last five or six years (on doctor’s advice)… To be fighting at a top level against these high-profile fights… you gotta be doing road work. Now I’ve been adding that to my arsenal.
“I’ve been running for about six weeks. Now, keeping that pace, getting tired in second rounds is a thing of the past. if you add that into my previous fights, I win those fights nine out of 10 times, both of those fights. I was dominating in the skills, I just faded in the second rounds,” Brunson continued. “There’s no question I was dominating those fights.”
Brunson will look to prove as much when he steps inside the PFL SmartCage for the very first time on November 24.
Before potentially entering the light heavyweight season in 2024, the promotional newcomer will make the walk as a middleweight once again to face two-time welterweight champion Ray Cooper III at this year’s PFL World Championship.
New kid on the block . BLONDE BRUNSON 2.0🤌🏾💰. Million dollar tournament incoming ! I started focusing more on my road work for the first time in my career . Only up ! #PFL @PFLMMA pic.twitter.com/Jj8L36pCSF
— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) October 5, 2023
Read Also: Derek Brunson Breaks Silence On Surprise UFC Exit: ‘Two Five-Fight Winning Streaks & Never Got A Title Shot’
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