Derek Brunson wants to make Israel Adesanya ‘eat his words’ in UFC title rematch

By Mike Bohn

Derek Brunson wants a rematch with Israel Adesanya so badly that he’s willing to go into enemy territory.

Brunson (23-7 MMA, 14-5 UFC) earned his fifth consecutive victory since a humiliating first-round TKO loss to Adesanya at UFC 230 in November 2018 when he overwhelmed, shut down and submitted Darren Till (18-4-1 MMA, 6-4-1 UFC) in this past Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 191 main event in Las Vegas.

The turnaround has been strong for Brunson in the three years since he shared the octagon with Adesanya (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC), and he’s made it clear all along the way that his goal is to get that rematch and redeem what he considers to be one of his worst performances. The fact that Adesanya became champion in the fallout of their fight just makes the possibility of a rematch sweeter.

Brunson wants to run it back so badly with Adesanya, in fact, that he’s willing to go into enemy territory. It might be pipe dream in the COVID-19 world, but if the stars could somehow align, Brunson said his “perfect” world scenario would be to challenge Adesanya in New Zealand and take the title away in front of his people.

“I was just thinking how bad I want that fight, how I know I can get the job done,” Brunson told MMA Junkie on Tuesday. “Shock everybody, surprise everybody. I’m so good at going in somebody’s backyard and just silencing the crowd. I’m not an A-hole with it, but I’m going to go enjoy the moment. That’s like the perfect scenario is fight Izzy in his backyard, avenge the loss, take the title for all the marbles. That would be lit.”

Brunson said he has no real-world beefs with Adesanya. The champion has what Brunson wants to elevate his career, and only one man can hold that belt at a time, making them natural opposing forces.

In addition, Brunson wants to show that he can do better than the first time. He’s changed teams to Sanford MMA in Florida and has a better grip on who he is as a fighter and person at 37 years old, and he craves for the rematch to show how much he’s grown.

“It’s all purely competitive,” Brunson said. “I want to make him eat his words. I want to give him a nickname that’s going to stick with him also. I think this could be one of the biggest fights in UFC middleweight history. I think the action is going to be there. I’m going to be up for that fight. I’ll put in a great training camp, the buildup will be great. I think it has a lot of potential.

“I would definitely like to fight Izzy again. I just know that fight – it left a sour taste in my mouth. It wasn’t a good representation of myself. Izzy has a lot of hype, a lot of momentum. So I would like to cool that.”

If all things were equal, Brunson has done more than enough to earn a UFC title shot. Unfortunately when it comes to the reality, there are many complicating factors involved.

This particularly scenario is tough for Brunson because of timing. Robert Whittaker is the true No. 1 contender at 185 pounds, and he’s expected to have a rematch of his own with Adesanya in the first quarter of 2022. Because of that, Brunson is stuck between a rock and a hard place in that he could choose to sit on the sidelines and hopes a title shot comes to him within a reasonable timeframe, or he could stay active and further solidify his spot.

Brunson has already said a matchup with Jared Cannonier (14-5 MMA, 7-5 UFC) could be an option, but he’s also discussing the possibility of being a back up fighter for Adesanya vs. Whittaker. It’s too soon after his win over Till to know exactly how everything will play out, Brunson said, but right now he’s not closing the door to anything.

“Obviously I want the title shot and I’m like, ‘Hey, I can wait,'” Brunson said. “I’ve got a lot of businesses and stuff going on that I’m not hurting for money. I like to invest my money smartly. But at the same time I like to fight. I just know, I’m really confident – and who’s to say Adesanya will even win the rematch? Whittaker’s going to be able to make some adjustments and it’s going to be a closer fight. But I’m just confident in my myself and what I can do and where I’m headed. So I really want to get my hands back in there.

“I talked to my management yesterday and I asked for the option to have me training just in case somebody gets injured, or somebody gets COVID. What I won’t do is I won’t throw myself in there properly prepared or training. I would like to be training for the fight and if somebody gets injured then I’ll fill in. Then let’s say it was a quick fight then two months after that we book my fight. Or somebody gets injured and it drags out, then maybe we book another fight a month after that and I’ll already be in shape.”


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