Names in the Game: Derek Brunson

January 22, 2011

Derek Brunson

Derek Brunson (photo courtesy of Derek Brunson)

You may not know the name Derek Brunson right now, but by the end of 2011 the fighter hailing from North Carolina is hoping to change all that.

A former 3-time Division II All-American wrestling from UNC-Pembroke, Brunson like many wrestlers made the move to MMA, and with just over a year under his belt he’s sitting at 5-0 and looking to make it six with his fight on Saturday night in Jacksonville, Fla.

Brunson’s story matches many of the top fighters in the UFC and Strikeforce. A top level wrestler who when college was over still had competitive juices flowing in his blood, and decided MMA was the best possible future.

“I always enjoyed mixed martial arts, but just was kind of focusing on wrestling,” Brunson told “When I was finished wrestling I just took my attention to doing mixed martial arts, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

In the year Brunson has been doing MMA, he’s racked up 5 wins with all of his fights ending in the first round. Similar to former UFC heavyweight champion Shane Carwin early in his career, Brunson has barely tasted what it’s like to go past two minutes through his time so far in MMA.

And while wrestling may be his pedigree, Brunson has shown tremendous knockout power as well, knocking out 4 of his 5 opponents.

“When I first came in, I’ve got a guy named Jeremy Owens, he’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu from the Nova Uniao academy, he pretty much brought me in as a wrestler and taught me some jiu-jitsu defense, that’s pretty much how we started out. Then I started to do a little bit of boxing to work with my takedowns. A lot of people are scared of my takedowns so it set my hands up better,” Brunson explained.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better since day one. I remember when I first came in just from wrestling straight to boxing and I wondered if my hands were ever going to get any better. Through time they got a lot better and in a year, I’ve improved a lot of things.”

Improvement is an understatement, but Brunson isn’t shy when talking about what he wants for his future. He looks to fighters like Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Gerald Harris and Anderson Silva as far as a model of how he wants to perform in the cage, and he hopes to have just as much success.

Brunson still currently trains out of Evolution MMA in Wilmington, NC, but he admits that to get to the next step in his career he’s probably going to have to venture out to work with new training partners and coaches. He’s in discussions to potentially work with the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City, as well as taking a trip to New Mexico to see what Greg Jackson’s camp is all about.

Even though he’s still young, Brunson is hungry to get better and climb the ladder all the way towards a potential landing spot with the UFC, Strikeforce or Bellator. The other thing he’s focused on…keeping his record spotless for as long as he can.

“I’m that type of guy, I don’t really feel any pressure. I want to go out there and stay undefeated,” said Brunson. “I don’t want to go out there and do things half way, if I do it, I want to be the best in whatever I do. I want to stay undefeated.”

Brunson will try to keep that streak alive on Saturday night in Jacksonville, Fla where he will take on Danny Babcock as a part of the WEF show.