After starting off his career in high fashion, having had – and won – 11 fights combined over a two-year span, the last seven months have been the lowest point for Derek Brunson, sidelined over vision issues.
Shortly before he was to have the biggest fight of his career this past March against former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Brunson’s poor sight caused the fight to be scrapped.
“Man, that was the most frustrating and disappointing thing ever,” said Brunson.
“Even though I took the fight on short notice, I got down to (Greg) Jackson’s, doubled up my training, got in real good shape, and I was ready to go. Two weeks before the fight, the eye exam was the last thing I had to go, and the Ohio State Athletic Commission rejected it saying I didn’t pass my exam, saying my eyes weren’t good enough if my contacts got knocked out.”
After having Lasik surgery to correct his vision and taken time off to heal, Brunson is eager to return to action this Saturday in Springfield, Mo., as part of ShoFIGHT 20 against Kendall Grove.
“For a while there I was wondering when I was going to fight again, because I was so used to fighting,” said Brunson. “I had like eight fights in one year. Everything came so fast and then all of a sudden it came to a halt. I was frustrated, was re-evaluating things, but this fight came through, my eyes feel good, everything feels good, and I’m ready to go.”
For Brunson, Grove represents the next level fight that he was denied in March against Souza.
“He’s definitely a game opponent,” Brunson told MMAWeekly.com. “He won The Ultimate Fighter, has been with some good camps, and has beaten top guys in the world, so he’s definitely a good step up.
“He’s good off his back, he’s very odd in terms of his length, and that can present problems, but at the end of the day I’ll work my striking and wrestling against his.”
Having never had such a long gap between fights in his career before, Brunson’s gas tank could be cause for concern, but he’s not overly worried about it. He’s put his time in at the gym.
“Condition-wise, I should be good,” he replied. “Sometimes in fights you’ve got to gut one out, and this might be one of those fights, but it’s not going to be one where I go out there, get fatigued and gas out. I turned it up in my training, so I’m feeling really good about my cardio.”
Now that he’s ready to fight again, Brunson has already been informed by Strikeforce matchmaker Sean Shelby that a return to that promotion is imminent, so he can continue to build off the momentum he had prior to being sidelined.
“I talked to him personally and he told me I’ll be fighting on the August card where Ronda Rousey will be fighting Sarah Kaufman,” said Brunson. “I’m not sure who I’ll be fighting at the time, but I’m excited to have the fight.
“Each fight is big to me, no matter who I’m fighting. I’m an undefeated fighter and that’s how I want to stay. That means more money, more sponsorships, and bigger opportunities. It’s just better for me altogether and that’s my goal to stay undefeated.”