Derek Brunson is about to start a new chapter in his career.
The former perennial top 10 Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight contender, Brunson, parted ways with his longtime fighting home for Professional Fighters League (PFL) last month (October 2023). The 39-year-old 32-fight veteran (23-9) will make his promotional debut opposite former Welterweight champion, Ray Cooper III, in a Middleweight affair at the 2023 PFL Championship in Washington D.C. this weekend (Fri., Nov. 24, 2023).
Although Brunson has historically been at 185 pounds for the entirety of his 13-year career, PFL doesn’t currently have the division. The lack of Middleweight will presumably prompt a change for Brunson in 2024. Ultimately, he’s content with anything at this stage and isn’t worried about what Cooper — or any opponent — will present him with.
“I can make Middleweight, I can make Light Heavyweight, I can make Heavyweight, so if they need somebody to fight Francis Ngannou, you never know, man,” Brunson told MMA Mania.
“I don’t see [this fight] as a war. It could be,” he continued. “In my head, I don’t see it as a war. That’s just me though. I’ve always been the guy that’s thought I’m competing against myself and I’ve proven that every fight. If you go [Jared] Cannonier, I was dominating that fight. I dropped him with the hands with the big left. I had him in a rear-naked choke to finish the round. Could have been a 10-8 round and then I go and fade. Same thing with [Dricus] Du Plessis. I’m fighting against myself and making adjustments even at my age and time in the game. Still learning, still growing. MMA, that’s what it’s about.”
Brunson joined UFC through the Strikeforce merger in 2012 and spent the following decade in the Octagon, going 14-7. Despite the comfort he’d seemingly found amongst the division’s best in UFC, it had become arguably too much comfort for Brunson. Therefore, the move comes at the perfect time.
“Not really,” Brunson said when asked if there was fear in leaving UFC. “I think I was a little burnt out being there so it wasn’t really scary to leave. I felt like, man, I really need a fresh start. I need a new adventure. I need a new something that lights a fire under me. I was looking for that, I needed that, and PFL was the opportunity that I was waiting for.”
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