Although fifth-ranked middleweight Derek Brunson will be taking what seems like a risk in his UFC Vegas 36 main event against seventh-ranked Darren Till, the division stalwart sees the upside in Till's name value compared to some fighters in the top-five.
As the UFC continues to evolve how they market their brand and book fights, name-value continues to have a major effect on matchmaking and even title contenders. Creating the debate of what is more beneficial when trying to rise in the rankings: Competing against top-ranked talent, or fighters with notoriety.
Derek Brunson sees upside in name opponents over top-ranked opponents
Brunson (22-7) is in the midst of a four-fight win streak, and a fifth straight would certainly put him in the center of title contention. Yet he is fighting an opponent lower in the rankings on Saturday afternoon. A decision that could be viewed as high-risk, low-reward. However, the 37-year-old explained to ">MMAFighting this week, that despite the lower ranking, he believes a win over a big name and former welterweight title challenger in Till (18-3-1) could catapult him into some major opportunities after.
“Beating Darren Till can lead to bigger and better things,” Brunson said. “He’s a game opponent. He’s done great at welterweight, came up to middleweight, had some quality wins, beat [Kelvin Gastelum] when Gastelum was right off a title shot with a close fight with Izzy [Israel Adesanya].
Brunson doesn't hate Till's fame-game
Till has quickly become a star in the sport and is a leading face for mixed martial arts in the United Kingdom, so his name is popping already in future title matchups against middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. That discourse seems undeserved considering his current ranking and place in the division after splitting his first two fights there. It could easily be something a long-time middleweight stalwart like Brunson could resent.
However, the North Carolina native holds no ill will towards Till and his lofty status because it's more deserving than what less proven fighters in the promotion have received.
“There’s a lot of guys [like that],” said Brunson. “I would say he earned it more than [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 UK 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.”
Brunson currently sits as a +150 betting underdog heading into his matchup on Saturday afternoon.
UFC Vegas 36 takes place on September 4 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event begins at 1:30 pm ET with preliminary action and is then followed by the main card at 4 pm ET. The entire event will air exclusively on streaming service ESPN+