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Derek Brunson: Aiming at the Top

Derek Brunson has no shortage of confidence.

The North Carolina-based middleweight has set his goals to become the best 185-pound fighter in the world, but he’s also very much tuned into the fact there is work to be done before that happens. Fortunately for the Jackson/Winkeljohn fighter, work ethic and determination are also things Brunson has in large supply.

“I honestly believe I can beat every single middleweight in the UFC,” Brunson said. “I know that 100 percent, but knowing and doing are two different things. I live in North Carolina and MMA isn’t big here. I have a family and have to spend most of my time here. I’m really working to build up things around me, like good striking coaches and things like that. I’m taking all the proper steps and I know I’m right there. I know my capabilities. I just have to shore up a few things and I’ll be right there to get done what I know I can get done.

“Work ethic is what got me here from Day One. I go out there and get it done. I’m a student of the game and I know where I’m going to go with this. I just have to put a couple more wins together and I’m going to be right where I need to be.”

For the past three years, the Wilmington native has been battling up his way through the crowded middleweight divisional ranks, and has found success at a consistent clip. Derek Brunson kicks <a href='../fighter/Brian-Houston'>Brian Houston</a> in their UFC middleweight bout on November 6, 2013 in Fort Campbell, KY. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Zuffa LLC)Brunson has tested himself against a collection of top-ranked contenders and gritty veterans alike, all the while pushing his personal evolution as a fighter to new heights. The charismatic 31-year-old’s most recent showing inside the Octagon served as further proof of Brunson being a fighter to keep an eye on as he starched resilient scrapper Ed Herman in quick fashion at UFC 183.

His victory over “Short Fuse” was his fourth win in his past five bouts, and Brunson believes he’s ready to make a raid on the upper tier of the 185-pound fold.

“That was a great fight for me,” Brunson said. “I always plan on having quick fights and getting in and out with the quick finish. I always envision me putting the other guy away in the first round because I don’t want to go to the judges. I know that’s not always a possibility, but you can’t go into fights thinking about limitations. It felt great to get the win over Herman the way I did.

“I know what I’m good at and I know what they are good at. I just go in there and flow and see what develops. When the opening I’m looking for is there, I jump on it.”

While Brunson was originally slated to return to action back in June, an injury forced him off the UFC’s card in Berlin and to the sidelines to recover. And even though the time away could have stunted the momentum he’s built, Brunson is one to keep a positive outlook and find the silver lining in every situation.

Derek Brunson punches <a href='../fighter/Lorenz-Larkin'>Lorenz Larkin</a> in their middleweight bout during the UFC 177 event at Sleep Train Arena on August 30, 2014 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)The work he invested in his training camp was still an effort to keep his evolution as a fighter in full swing. And just because the proverbial trigger wasn’t pulled on fight night, that doesn’t take away from the efforts put forth to make sure he’s going to be a better version of himself the next time he steps out under the bright lights of the Octagon.

“Anytime you have to take a step back or pull out of a fight it’s never a good feeling, but the preparation you put in still means something,” Brunson said. “I was out in Albuquerque training for five weeks, but it still sucked having to pull out of the fight. This sport isn’t like other sports. In the NFL there is no contact or very little when they practice, but in order to get yourself ready and in the best shape possible in MMA you have to really put your body through an intense five or six week training camp. Those weeks are filled with wrestling, sparring and training that opens us up to injury.

“As a fighter, I believe you are in the driver’s seat. When it comes time to make a smart decision, and you fail to make that decision, don’t look back and be mad. This is a business and you have to treat yourself as such.”

He turned that hovering energy into his preparation for Sam Alvey as he’s set to square off with the former TUF 16 competitor at UFC Fight Night: Saint Preux vs. Teixeira in Nashville on Saturday night. Brunson is coming into the tilt hungry to take another step closer to a coveted top 10 ranking, and is confident a victory over the red-hot veteran will be a solid addition to his growing resume of accomplishments under the UFC banner.

 “Sam [Alvey] is a tough guy and I’m excited this fight came together. He’s on a streak and he’s riding high right now. He took a short notice fight to get back to the UFC where he wasn’t in the best shape and he lost a close split decision, but since then with full camps he’s been tearing it up. He is a veteran of the game, a respectable opponent and I know he’s going to be fighting ‘til the end.

“Fighting a guy like Sam definitely amps me up a bit more. Right now I’m inside the top 15 in the UFC rankings and he’s right outside looking to get in. We are both fighting to get to that top 10 and trying to make our names. This is a big fight for both of us. We are two guys with a lot to gain and we are going to go in there and mix it up.”

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