At this past weekend’s event, which provided a European showcase, Till headlined against veteran middleweight Derek Brunson. Despite being tipped by many to be the biggest challenge to the dominant middleweight reign of Israel Adesanya, “The Gorilla” saw his chance to face the champion slip away on Saturday.
Having been beaten up with heavy strikes on the ground, the Liverpudlian tapped out to a rear-naked choke in the third round. The victory marked Brunson’s fifth in a row, and pushed him one step closer to a rematch against “The Last Stylebender.”
For Till, the result has left him at a tough point in his career. Having fallen short of capturing UFC gold at welterweight, the Englishman made the move up to 185 pounds in 2019. Despite securing a divisional debut victory over Kelvin Gastelum, Till has now dropped consecutive fights to Robert Whittaker and Brunson.
But the 28-year-old has received a show of support from a prominent compatriot. Speaking to BT Sport after providing color commentary for UFC Vegas 36, former UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping described Till’s defeat as a “bump in the road,” but backs him to work back to the top.
“Darren’s obviously heartbroken, and I know how much this means to him. I know how much he put into the training camp. He was so focused. But it’s not over, it’s not over. Yes, it’s a bump in the road, it halts the dreams for now; the title aspirations. (He needs to) forget about those, for a little bit. He’s gotta do some work, you know.”
Having praised the pedigree of Brunson, Bisping went on to provide some words of encouragement for his fellow Englishman. “The Count” reminded Till that he’s still young, and suggested he has all the tools to reach the UFC mountaintop if he stays focused.
“Unfortunately, you’re fighting the best people in the world. Derek Brunson is no joke, that’s five in a row for him. And, yeah, Darren, Darren, keep your chin up mate. Listen, you’ve got it, you’ve got all the skills, you really do. You have all the potential to become a champion one day. Youth is on your side, but you’ve gotta stay the course, you’ve gotta stay focused. Do not give up on yourself.”
While Till goes back to the drawing board, Brunson will be looking ahead to a potential title opportunity. Despite the championship rematch between Adesanya and Whittaker likely being delayed until 2022, the North Carolina native suggested he’s happy to sit out and wait for his own shot at gold while that fight plays out.
What’s next for Darren Till? Should he move back down to welterweight?