WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Wilmington native Derek Brunson knows at least one thing to be true: In the world of mixed martial arts, there are no shortcuts.
Years of hard work and Brunson's ability to learn that truth have him climbing the rankings.
Saturday, Brunson will face Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in the main event of UFC Fight Night at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.
"The sport has changed," said Brunson. "I have learned a lot. I came into the game very raw as a wrestler, trying to work in my boxing. Now, here I am a full blown martial artist with a lot of skills."
Brunson made his professional MMA debut in May 2010 with a win over John Bryant at the Carolinas Summer Fight Series 1 in Wilmington. Brunson made the transition to MMA after his All-American college wrestling career at UNC Pembroke was over.
Primarily known for his wrestling ability, Brunson has worked hard to learn other skills.
"Derek changes every time he goes in and fights," said Brunson's trainer, Dre Herd. "He is always picking up stuff, and he's not one of the guys that picks stuff up in practice and then you see him doing his normal stuff. You see him out there doing the stuff that he has picked up."
The ability to learn that has Brunson at the top of his game.
"UFC is the biggest of all stages," said Brunson. "When you come to the UFC you have to be confident and ready to fight. You can't let the crowds get to you or affect you. You just have to be ready altogether."
Brunson (18-5) has fought all comers, including some of the biggest names in the sport like Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida.
"I have fought everyone. I have fought all the tough guys, the legends of the sport," he said. "And I am still here with a very good record, and in a fight, that could get me a title shot next."