When Derek Brunson enters the octagon in Brooklyn, his mind will go blank.
“I really don’t have any emotions,” Brunson said Wednesday about his upcoming fight. “I’m in the moment, now it’s time to get the job done.”
That moment will be at the Barclays Center in the UFC 208. His time will come Saturday night in the co-main event. His job will be to beat Anderson Silva, considered by many to be the greatest mixed martial arts fighter in the sport’s history.
No easy task, even if Silva is 41 years old and officially hasn’t won a fight since 2012. He’s 0-4 with one no contest — a win over Nick Diaz in January 2015 overturned after Silva failed a post-fight test for banned substances.
“I don’t think Anderson Silva is less of a fighter,” said Brunson, 33. “I got a lot of things to point to why he’s not less of a fighter. He might have slowed down a little bit, he’s still technical, he still has all the tricks, he’s still that same guy.
“I think he’ still faster than 90 percent of the guys in the UFC at middleweight.”
Silva indeed still possesses all the tricks that made him a UFC middleweight champion, guided him to 17 straight wins and a UFC-record 10 straight title defenses. He’s elusive. He’s an accurate counter striker with power moving both backward and forward. And he’s creative with his strikes, often showing off moves reminiscent more of a martial arts movie than a real-life martial arts fight.
“When I go inside , I don’t go in as I need to prove to the people I’m the best,” Silva said. “No, I’m just happy. I just stay happy.”
Brunson (16-4, 7-2 UFC) is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Robert Whittaker, ending his run of four straight wins by first-round knockout. He was quite happy when he got the call last month about the fight.
Once Brunson heard the name on the other end of the phone, he said to himself “He’s really good at this. I’ve got to go to the gym instantly and start preparing.”
He’s had less than a month to prepare for Silva. Even with such a short camp to train for a legend, Brunson understands how big a win will be for him.
“It does a lot for me, it does a lot for my brand,” Brunson said. “When you’re talking mixed martial arts, to have a win over a guy who is by many considered the greatest of all time, is definitely going to take your career to the next level. Definitely a good fight to capitalize on.”
Silva last fought at UFC 200 in July. He lost that night by unanimous decision in a non-title fight to light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. Of course, he took that fight on three days’ notice after Jon Jones was removed from the card for testing positive for a banned substance.
Silva (33-8, 16-4, 1 no contest) was heralded for agreeing to step in on such short notice against one of the toughest fighters in the sport.
“My motivation is my heart,” Silva said. “And I love my job. I love fighting. Fighting is my life. This is my great motivation.”