Darren Till says his doubters have ‘a special place in my heart’ ahead of UFC Fight Night 191

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Darren Till says his doubters have ‘a special place in my heart’ ahead of UFC Fight Night 191
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LAS VEGAS – It’s been more than 13 months since Darren Till set foot in the octagon, and while the journey to UFC Fight Night 191 has been a difficult one, “The Gorilla” believes he’s ready to shine once again.

“I’m just happy to be here,” Till told MMA Junkie at Wednesday’s media day at the UFC Apex. “It’s tough. It’s tough to have injuries and go through camps after camps and spend a lot of money and, you know, obviously have to pull out. I mean, last fight was very unfortunate because it was only like two or three weeks before where I broke my collarbone. I mean, if it was 10 weeks before the fight and I broke my collarbone, I was definitely still fighting. But it’s just – it reminds me a lot of like when Dominick Cruz was getting a lot of setbacks and injuries. You’ve just got come through them, and you’ve got to come through them, and here I am a few days before, and I’m a very happy man.”

Three years ago, Till was nearly at the top of the UFC’s welterweight division, challenging then-champ Tyron Woodley for the belt in just his seventh appearance for the promotion. Unfortunately for Till, he came up short that night, and he’s had a difficult road in the time since.

Currently just 1-3 in his past four appearances, Till has has to battle through a handful of injuries during the time away, including the broken collarbone that forced him to withdraw from a planned April meeting with Marvin Vettori.

But Till said the time away has forced him to focus on the things that he can control.

“It’s been a test, obviously, but it’s just a testament to my will,” Till said. “Like even this camp, I’ve had injuries, and I think I speak for every fighter, we all get our injuries. It’s just how you get through them. But as time goes on now – and as I’m getting older and as I’m getting wiser, hopefully – I know I’ve got a purpose in life, and I keep saying this all week, like, I wake up with purpose, and I know what I want and what I want to be and who I am – just all that stuff together.

“It’s just, like, I’m out for something, and I’m not going to stop until I get it, so no injury, no whatever can stop me on this little journey I’m on, and it’s my journey, and there’s people on it. There’s people who come on the journey and then come off the journey, and it’s sort of like the hype train thing. But I’m driving towards something, and I’ve got so much motivation for it.”

Till (18-3-1 MMA, 6-3-1 UFC) returns to action in the headlining bout of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 191 event, which streams live on ESPN+. He faces Derek Brunson (22-7 MMA, 13-5 UFC) in a meaningful clash in the UFC’s 185-pound division, with Brunson sitting at No. 5 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie middleweight rankings, and Till checking in at No. 10.

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An admitted social media troll, Till has fired a few barbs online ahead of the clash but said he’s fully aware of what he faces on Saturday. With Brunson sporting a four-fight winning streak that includes the likes of Kevin Holland, Edmen Shahbazyan and Ian Heinisch, Till knows he’ll have a challenge in the cage.

“I think he’s class,” Till said. “I’ve got nothing towards Derek. I think he’s a nice guy. I like his team. I like his management. He’s here to do a job Saturday. He’s been doing a job. He’s been doing more job than me. He’s been beating these guys. But I’ll keep saying it: This is not disrespecting anyone, but I ain’t no Kevin Holland, and I ain’t no Shahbazyan.

“I’m a different animal coming in there Saturday. I’ve got fight IQ. I’m getting more ferocious with age, and and it seems like he’s getting better with age. I mean, I know he’s 37 today, but he seems like blonde Brunson is the f*cking man, mate, so you know, I’m prepared for Saturday, mate. I’ve done all my work. I’ve done all my pads, all my sparring. I’m ready for whatever comes.”

If there’s one truth in MMA, it seems to be that winning takes care of everything. Sure, there have been some stumbles in recent times, but at just 28, it’s hard to believe the book is completely written on Till. He certainly doesn’t think so, but he’s seen those who have, and he wants them all to know he’s using that doubt to fuel his next rise.

“Listen, (this fight) is very important, but I take all pressure off my shoulders,” Till said. “I’m fighting the best out there, and anything can happen. I know I’m going in there Saturday, and I know 100 percent I’m going to win this fight. I know that for a fact, but things can happen, and listen, all these people who jumped on the train, mostly the people who jumped off the train – as I like to call them, the doubters – they’ve got a special place in my heart.

“You know when I’m like on the treadmill in the Institute, and I’m running out my little shoes and it’s getting to like the 45th minute and I’m thinking, ‘Ah, you can just do it. You can stop this five minutes before,’ and I’m like, ‘Not a chance. I’m going to the 45, 50-minute run that I set out to do – eight miles and stuff like that – and all the other times when I’m doing my 10 five-minute pads with Colin (Heron), it’s like, ‘Ah, do I just coast this round?’ No! Hit harder, you know what I mean? So you doubters, you’ve got a special place in my heart.”