Derek Brunson: “Building Fighters” Doesn’t Belong in MMA

Some have been quesitoning whether Edmen Shahbazyan should have fought Derek Brunson at this stage of his career, but the latter says the timing was right.

Derek Brunson halted the hype train that was tied Edmen Shahbazyan at UFC Vegas 5 this past weekend, and as a result, some are wondering if the latter should have been in there against the veteran contender. But, not only does Brunson think the booking made sense, he’s also not a fan of trying to build fighters.

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Brunson says “building fighters” shouldn’t be part of MMA

Shahbazyan was awarded the headlining fight with Brunson as a result of going 4-0 in the UFC and 11-0 overall, prior to Saturday. Leading up to the bout, there was plenty of talk about the 22-year-old moving into title contention, if he beat Brunson.

Not only that, due to all the buzz surrounding Shahbazyan, he was a considerable favorite on the betting lines for the bout.

Well, although Shahbazyan had some solid moments early on  into the fight, he had no answers for Brunson’s pressure and wrestling as the fight wore on. Brunson hurt Shahbazyan badly in round two and then finish the fight in round three.

Due to what transpired, some have been questioning whether Shahbazyan should have been booked to fight the veteran contender at all. But, while talking about that question after his win, Brunson said this (quotes via MMA Junkie).

“I don’t think MMA should be building,” Brunson said. “You look at the NFL (or) NBA – if you’re good, you play.

MMA needs to stop building fighters up. If you’re good enough, you’re good enough to fight. You fight whoever is close in the rankings.

You go out there and earn it. There should be no favoritism or, ‘Oh, look at him. He’s young.’ If you’re earning your spot, yeah, fight somebody tough. Keep working your way up.

“He went out there and knocked Tavares out. Tavares is no joke. Yeah, he earned this fight.

Everybody had me getting smoked until I go out there and get a victory. Man, everybody’s got to earn their stripes.

He earned the fight, and I went out there and earned the victory.”


Now, from a veteran fighter’s perspective, this take makes sense. Why should a fellow fighter be given lesser opponents, deliberately? Especially if you’ve had to face numerous, top tier competitors?

From a business stand-point, however, building fighters makes complete sense. Maybe not to the extent that boxing does it, whereby, rising fighters might not face any serious challenges for years.

But, what generates serious revenue in combat sports is stars, and sometimes creating stars requires some careful matchmaking, so that a fighter’s potential can be maximized.

In the case of Shahbazyan, however, it’s hard to argue with Brunson’s take. Prior to Saturday’s bout, he was ranked #9 and Brunson was #8. So, on paper, the fight made sense.

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