Derek Brunson (6-0) will be making his Strikeforce debut later this year. Most people found out about Brunson when ProMMAnow.com announced that he had signed a contract with Strikeforce earlier this week.
However, folk in the know here in North Carolina have been high on the young fighter since he first set foot in the cage back on Jan. 23, 2010 as an amateur.
The 3x All-American wrestler from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke hasn’t gone longer than 2:27 in any of his fights, including his two amateur fights, finishing every opponent.
When it was official that he had signed with Strikeforce, I knew this would be the perfect time to get his thoughts on everything that’s happened so quickly.
He gives his thoughts on the signage, why he wasn’t picked for TUF, thoughts on the Strikeforce middleweight division, and how to possibly beat pound for pound great Anderson Silva.
Pro MMA Now: Hi Derek, thanks for speaking with us here at Pro MMA Now (www.prommanow.com). How’s everything going, and how does it feel to finally get the deal with Strikeforce completed?
Derek Brunson: I’m good man. It feels great to finally get this deal with Strikeforce done. We were looking for something really big, and I feel as though this is the best thing for me at the moment. I’m just ready to get back inside the cage and get things rolling again.
Pro MMA Now: Now, your last fight took place in late January of this year. I saw you were already campaigning on Twitter to get on the Strikeforce Challengers card in April. Talk about how important it is for you to get back in the cage.
Derek Brunson: Yea, I last fought on January 22nd, took on a game opponent in Danny Babcock down in Florida. He’s a good guy and he fought Frank Trigg to a close decision. I would love to get on the Strikeforce Challenger’s card in April. I just want to get back in there as soon as possible. My cardio is on point right now, but in the meantime I’m just going to keep training and improving until the time comes.
Pro MMA Now: Tons of people saw your TUF audition video, and everybody wants to know why the UFC passed up on you for a spot on the show. Can you talk about that experience and maybe provide a reason why you were not picked up to go on the show?
Derek Brunson: Yea, well I didn’t actually go out to the actual tryouts in Vegas.I had a ton of stuff going on at the time and couldn’t make the trip out there. I kind of put together the video that everyone saw online. I did all the editing and all that stuff and put it together myself and sent it out. When they first announced the show, they said middleweights and welterweights I believe…but then they chose to go with just welterweights. Of course I’m a middleweight, so that’s why I wasn’t chosen for the show I think. So no biggie, I’m cool with where I am right now.
Pro MMA Now: I was reading some reactions to your TUF audition video. One of the comments was “he’s only a 3x division II All-American. Give us your thoughts on that and what’s the difference between a high level DI guy compared to a high level DII guy?
Derek Brunson: It’s a job. The DI guys treat it more like a job I think. There are more scholarships. I mean they get more money to go to school, so they may have some extra motivation or something. I mean I had DI offers, but I chose to go where I went and I’m happy with that decision. UNCP’s wrestling team is always strong and we were consistently ranked in the top 15 during my tenure there, and also had six or seven other All-Americans there besides myself. There’s a big difference in college wrestling and wrestling in MMA anyways. I mean you have your setups in wrestling, but in MMA there’s just so much to be aware of ya know. I don’t think there’s that big of a difference between DI and DII guys.
(Editors note: One of Brunson’s college teammates will be making his MMA debut in Charlotte, N.C., in April. He’s also a middleweight, and 3x All-American from UNC-Pembroke.)
Pro MMA Now: Now you started your MMA training at Team Evolution in Wilmington, N.C. You recently went out to train with Greg Jackson’s camp last month. Speak on that experience a little and do you plan on staying at Evolution, or do you plan to join a major team like Jackson’s?
Derek Brunson: Yea, I train at Team Evolution in the Port City, Wilmington, N.C. I get my jiu-jitsu, boxing, and wrestling in there. I started out learning submission defense with my wrestling base, but now I’m training to be more offensive on the ground as well. My time out at Greg Jackson’s was great. The coaches, the training partners. I mean I had Rashad Evans, Jon Jones, GSP, Carlos Condit, and the list goes on. Then I had Greg Jackson who just puts it all together. He gave me a lot of one on one attention that I needed to help sharpen my game. It was a great experience and I learned a lot about being a professional. I plan to stay in Wilmington. You got the guys that stay where they stay at and then they kind of go off for a training camp or whatever. My plans are to stay here in Wilmington and just go out and back and forth with training camps at Greg Jackson’s and then go down to Renzo Gracie’s gym in New York City every once in a while. So, those are my plans.
Pro MMA Now: What do you mean by more offensive? Like, trying to submit guys? If you get taken down, are you trying to submit your opponent or just trying to get back up to your feet?
Derek Brunson: Just trying to end the fight. A lot of guys will get a take-down and then just lay in someone’s guard. I’m just waiting for the day when I can slap a triangle on someone though. But, I don’t really see anyone taking me down. I mean anything can happen in a fight, we’ll see. I train for everything, because a big punch can land and change things and whatnot…You never know what can happen in a fight. I want to be dangerous everywhere, I’d love to slap a triangle on someone!
Pro MMA Now: Let’s talk about your style. We know you have a wrestling background, but in the highlight video you are knocking everybody out! What’s up with that man?
Derek Brunson: (Laughs) I don’t know. I’m getting a little Chuck Liddell syndrome or Shane Carwin. I just wanna put my hands on people more than I want to take them down. So that’s kind of my thing now I guess. I have a real good boxing coach in Wilmington, Andre Thompson. He’s been on the Olympic level competing when he was a little bit younger trying to make the Olympic team and won three Olympic trials. He’s an excellent coach and he’s help me out a lot. He works my hands and keeps them sharp and crisp. So I just have a lot of confidence in my hands and I’ll just keep working with him. Keeping the knockouts coming, that’s the plan.
Pro MMA Now: Ok, let’s talk about the Strikeforce middleweight division. There’s some good guys there. Give us your take on the Strikeforce middleweight division.
Derek Brunson: I like it. There have some tough guys, a lot of tough guys. I’m a fan of the sport so I’ve been checking it out for a while. I watch Strikeforce, UFC, I watch all fighters. I study the game, if I’m going to do something I want to make sure I know fully what I’m getting myself into competition wise and everything. So I been studying the fighters in Strikeforce for a while. Somedays I feel like…man..I just wanna get thrown out there. Then I have to kind of realize that there’s a process in life and you have to go through the process and work your way up. That’s what I’m try to do, just take my time ya know, enjoy the process. Whoever they put in front of me, just get the job done and keep moving up ya know?
Pro MMA Now: Right on. Do you have anyone in particular that you want to fight right off the bat?
Derek Brunson: (Laughs) Right off the bat? Well, it’s all good. I’m be on the Challenger series, so I mean I’m not going to be able to fight any of the premier guys right off the bat. (Laughs) I got my eye on a few people, but I’m kind of keep that a secret until I get to that stage. I can’t go ahead and show my hand early!
Pro MMA Now: I know you’ve mentioned that you want to fight at least three times this year. Is that something that was a part of the negotiations?
Derek Brunson: My manager handled all that stuff. That’s ideally what he came to me and told me I had a contract with Strikeforce, that’s what he told me that we want to try and get three fights in this year. So I’m all about it. I wouldn’t mind getting in four or five. I mean I just want to fight and compete. Just get more experience in the sport. Hopefully I can get out there and compete, suffer no injuries, I’m just ready to get after it.
Pro MMA Now: How many wins do you think you’ll need to get some TV time?
Derek Brunson: On the main card? Three or four fights maybe? I think I can get some TV action or Showtime action in the first or second fight possibly. I’m not sure how they are going to set it up, but like I said, I’m just willing to work my way up and be exciting.
Pro MMA Now: Ok, we’re gonna wrap things up here in a second. The floor is yours. Talk to the Strikeforce middleweight division and what can they expect from Derek Brunson in the next year or so.
Derek Brunson: Ahhh..You can expect a really exciting fighter, a lot of take-downs, I’m going to be explosive, and a lot of knockouts. That’s what I’m bring to the sport, knockouts. A lot of funky stuff. I’m try to keep it real unorthodox, just be really exciting. Not getting too ahead of myself ya know…within reason ya know. So just go out there put on a show and win. That’s what you can expect from me.
Pro MMA Now: I saw that you tweeted to Rashad Evans that you want to be like him. You want to fight smart, be exciting and win.
Derek Brunson: Rashad, that’s my dawg man. Rashad’s a good guy man, he’s not only a competitor, he’s a smart competitor, former UFC champion. He’s an intelligent guy and he’s pretty witty while his record speaks for itself. I’ve been talking to him a lot and just trying to find out more about the sport and he’s helped me out a lot. So I really appreciate that and I’ll definitely back him all day when it comes to anything. I’ve learned a lot from him, he’s not out there doing stupid stuff. He goes out there and gets the job done. He went for a long time without losing, so if I can do that I’ll be good ya know. I mean I’m in this for the next ten years if not longer, I’ll pull a Randy Couture. My whole thing is I want to get my defense so good that I’m not taking damage over the course of it. I want to be able to avoid everything, just cover up and be able to protect myself.
Pro MMA Now: In other words you want to be Anderson Silva.
Derek Brunson: (Laughs) There we go, there we go. Guys a magician just disappear when somebody throws something.
Pro MMA Now: Let’s talk about Anderson Silva real quick since he’s in your weight class. I know you study fighters. One weakness is that his take-down defense, ya know he’ll allow opponents to take him down at times. What are some weaknesses you’ve seen in his game, if you want to show your hand a little bit in regards to things you’ve picked up?
Derek Brunson: Ahh. The guy is good. Obviously he’s pound for pound one of the best if not the best, but if I had to say weaknesses a guy that can pressure him, a guy that is fast enough to get on his legs and pressure him. Generally he fights guys that are good technically and Anderson is good technically, but he’s waaaay faster. So I mean it’s just a bad match-up for everyone. So anybody who can pose a threat as far as take-downs and quickness ya know. Even if someone can take him down they still gonna have to have the quickness to get in and be able to take him down. If you find guys that are as quick as he is AND can take him down, that’s when you have a match-up problem.
Pro MMA Now: Well Derek, that’s about all I have. Do you have anyone you’d like to thank, or any sponsors?
Derek Brunson: Nah, not really man. I’m looking for sponsors. I just wanna thank my team, Evolution Port City Sports Performing. I wanna thank Greg Jackson for letting me come out and train and helping me with my training camp. I wanna thank my manager Ali for making it all happen. That’s pretty much it.