While most of the attention will follow former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida later tonight (Sat., Oct. 28, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 119 live on FOX Sports 1 from inside Ginasio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as he returns from a lengthy suspension, fight fans mustn’t sleep on knockout artist Derek Brunson.
Fighting in Brazil hasn’t really helped Brunson stand out leading into UFC Fight Night 119, but the 33-year-old veteran is used to flying under the radar. Heck, Brunson was barely shown on the UFC Sao Paulo poster for his main event opposite “The Dragon.”
"Initially when I saw that, I was like, 'What is this?!'" Brunson told ESPN. "It is what it is. The most important thing is to go out and handle this fight. If we ever have a rematch, hypothetically, I'll take over the poster."
Brunson, who has lost to only Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, and Yoel Romero since his promotional debut in 2012, isn’t bothered about the poster snub. In fact, after posting a 8-3 record in the UFC’s middleweight faction, including a period in which he finished four fights in a row by first-round knockout, Brunson feels like he’s well acknowledged within the promotion.
"They gave me respect when it came to the contract, and I definitely think they consider me a valuable piece," Brunson said.
"I haven't gotten that respect from the media yet. I'm not one to cry a lot, but I see a lot of media, they'll jump on a mid-tier guy who maybe has one exciting fight, but the fight before that he lost. If you look at my career, it's been nothing but consistency. I'm 17-5, but on two or three of those losses I was robbed by judges and another, Yoel Romero, I was winning until the last minute."
Today’s mixed martial arts (MMA) scene demands prolonged success. So even though Brunson has shown the ability to finish fights at the drop of a dime, his back-to-back losses to “The Reaper” and “The Spider” ultimately lowered his appeal to casual fight fans. The media obviously plays a part in covering the sports’ fighters, but it is the fans who decide who they want to follow and pay to watch, even if that fighter has previous doping violations.
"In MMA, you can literally cheat over and over again, and it's OK," Brunson said. "The media will back you. They'll have you on their show, laugh with you and ignore the guys who are coming up and getting things done the right way. You have to give those guys respect, and stop glorifying guys who cheated the sport."
While Machida’s 2016 run-in with United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) lands him in this category of previous cheaters who remain hot ticket items in the sport, Brunson believes the former UFC light heavyweight king is still a promotional asset.
“I haven't read his story and I don't care about his story," Brunson said. "I'm gonna fight him and take him out.
"I still think he has value. I'd still put him in the top five or so of the division. We don't know what Machida will be out there after the suspension, but I'm ready for the best one."
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 119 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 2 at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.