MMA’s Greats of the States | North Carolina: Derek Brunson

By Mike Sloan Dec 13, 2016

Mixed martial artists come from every corner of the globe, bearing a variety of styles. Sometimes, fighters are products of their environment, favoring disciplines prevalent in the country or state from which they hail. Various regions of the United States are considered factories for great fighters, though that certainly is not the case with each state. In this weekly series, the spotlight will shine on the best mixed martial artist of all-time from each of the 50 states. Fighters do not necessarily need to be born in a given state to represent it; they simply need to be associated with it.


Derek Brunson has carved out a nice career for himself in mixed martial arts, having reached the pinnacle of the sport while emerging as one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s top middleweights.

Brunson was a three-time NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke -- a Division II institution -- before making his transition to MMA. The Wilmington, North Carolina, native won his first six professional bouts, signed with Strikeforce and moved to 9-0 before suffering back-to-back losses to Kendall Grove and Ronaldo Souza. Brunson arrived in the UFC in 2012, earning victories over Chris Leben and Brian Houston prior to being stopped on third-round punches and elbows from 2000 Olympic silver medalist Yoel Romero at UFC Fight Night 35 on Jan. 15, 2014. From there, he rattled off five straight victories over Lorenz Larkin, Ed Herman, Sam Alvey, Roan Carneiro and two-time Ring of Combat champion Uriah Hall.

While a technical knockout loss to Robert Whittaker in the UFC Fight Night 101 main event has slowed his forward progress, Brunson remains a viable contender at 185 pounds. Operating primarily out of the Jackson-Wink MMA camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the 32-year-old has compiled a 16-4 record, with 12 finishes.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Tim Kennedy, Spencer Fisher, Jordan Rinaldi


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