Brunson, who has been in exceptional form since his 2018 loss to current champion Israel Adesanya, is set for his third straight UFC main event this weekend. On a European-heavy UFC Vegas 36 card, the 37-year-old will headline against English contender Darren Till.
With a victory over “The Gorilla,” Brunson will extend his winning streak, which includes victories over Edmen Shahbazyan and Kevin Holland, to five, and jump closer to a potential championship opportunity.
But Till certainly won’t be an easy opponent for the North Carolina native. The Liverpudlian has been tipped by many to have the greatest chance of challenging Adesanya’s dominant middleweight reign. And according to Brunson, the talk around Till’s credentials is understandable.
In an interview with MMA Fighting, the UFC veteran showed the respect he has for his upcoming opponent. He suggested that Till has earned his hype a lot more than guys like Sean O’Malley.
“There’s a lot of guys [like that]. I would say he earned it more than a [Sean] O’Malley or something like that. I think what 18-4, former title challenger, a win over Stephen Thompson, he had another quality win, too. He has some quality wins.
“He put himself in a great spot. He’s from the U.K. with a big following, that helps also. He’s just a guy that has a lot of buzz around him. His personality, a solid fighter.”
O’Malley is regarded as one of the most promising names at bantamweight. However, he’s only faced one ranked opponent in the UFC, which ended in a defeat at the hands of Marlon “Chito” Vera. Till, meanwhile, has challenged for gold and beaten the likes of “Wonderboy” and Kelvin Gastelum.
Despite understanding why Till boasts such a high level of hype, Brunson is focusing on his own game, and is confident he can get his hand raised on September 4.
“None of the hype is gonna bother me,” Brunson said. “I know what I’ve got to do to get done. The funny thing about it is I’m not as crazy as an underdog as I was in my last three or four fights so that’s funny to me. I know what I’ve got to get done.
“I know what’s in front of me. I know where Darren Till’s good. He’s a game opponent. Pretty much go back to that wrestling thing — I’ve got to break him. That’s just it.”
Having praised Till’s abilities, Brunson, who believes he’s among the top-five best middleweights over the last decade, knows a victory over the Englishman will be huge for making his title aspirations become a reality.
“Beating Darren Till can lead to bigger and better things,” Brunson explained. “He’s a game opponent. He’s done great at welterweight, came up to middleweight, had some quality wins, beat Gastelum when Gastelum was right off a title shot with a close fight with Izzy (Israel Adesanya).
“A fresh face, a new guy that Izzy hasn’t fought. But make no mistakes, it’s my time. I know what I have in front of me and I know what I’ve got to get done.”
Brunson and Till will collide this Saturday inside the UFC Apex. The card, which was originally set to be the promotion’s return to England, features a host of exciting matchups.
Alongside the intriguing headliner, the likes of Tom Aspinall, Alex Morono, Khalil Rountree Jr., Paddy Pimblett, and Jack Shore are all in action. And with a potential title shot at stake in the main event, September’s first event looks set to be another entertaining watch.
Who do you think will have their hand raised on Saturday? Derek Brunson or Darren Till?