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Derek Brunson explains how cheerleading in high school helped him in MMA

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Derek Brunson can credit part of his early mixed martial arts success to his cheerleading background.

Derek Brunson had a strong wrestling background in high school, but he also doubled as a cheerleader.

Brunson touched on his high school cheerleading career during a media scrum in Ottawa on Thursday. “That’s funny [laughs]. I used to cheerlead back in high school,” he said in video posted by MMA Junkie. “That was one of the better things. I came into MMA and I had a strong core and a lot flexibility. I could put myself in a lot of different positions when it comes to scrambling. Over the years I stopped doing all the tumbling and tossing girls in the air, so I definitely lost a little bit of upper-body and core-strength. I think it was definitely one of the early tools that helped me when I got into this sport.”

Brunson has been criticized in the past for his aggressive punching style. It has led to a number of memorable knockouts both for and against him.

“I’m always looking for those knockouts but I’m looking to do it in a better fashion. Not rushing, not blitzing, not putting myself at risk. Not just being too greedy,” he explained. “I look at a lot of my fights and I’m like, ‘man, that was too greedy.’ I can even look back on my fights, even the good ones where I got the knockouts, and think, ‘I should have probably toned it down a little bit.’”

Brunson faces ranked middleweight Elias Theodorou at UFC Ottawa on Saturday. He was complimentary of his opponent’s skill set to some degree. “I think he is a solid fighter,” Brunson expressed. “He’s not great at any one thing but he is pretty solid at everything.”

“He’s going to take his time and point fight.” he continued. “I don’t think he is difficult to figure out. He is going to move and he is okay with winning a decision and winning a point fight. He is not going to put himself at risk too much. I think I heard in a couple statements he said he is content with his life. He is happy where he is at. Everyone is looking for the next opportunity, but he is okay going to a decision.”

Brunson has lost four of his last six fights, with five of those six bouts ending via first-round knockout or TKO. Theodorou has won four of his last seven — including three straight wins — all of which went to a decision.