Brunson, the 28-year old middleweight whose last fight was an August loss to Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, thought he was free to appear on The Ultimate Fighter 17.
But this week, the Jackson's MMA fighter found out at the absolute last minute that he wasn't cleared to participate in the show.
"It's Halloween, it's like perfect, it's a nightmare," Brunson said on Wednesday's edition of The MMA Hour. "Throughout the day I'm like, man, that was the worst-case scenario that actually happened."
When the former NCAA Division II All-American wrestler realized that due to the cancellation of the planned September and November Strikeforce shows, he wouldn't be able to fight again in Strikeforce any time soon, Brunson asked Strikeforce matchmaker Sean Shelby about the possibility of being released from his contract in order to appear on the next edition of TUF, which features coaches Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen.
"I felt I wasn't a priority anymore, you know?," Brunson said. "I lost two in a row under the Strikeforce banner. I lost to Kendall Grove [in a bout outside of Strikeforce] and 'Jacare.' It took a long time to get me a fight, they wanted to make the fight between me and 'Jacare,' so pretty much I had to sit out until Jacare's hand was healed just so we could get that going and that was in August. I had that fight, lost to Jacare, that was two in a row under Strikeforce. I was trying to get another fight in before the end of year, and I asked them about September and November."
When that didn't work out, Brunson continued, "I said, ‘is there any way I can try out for The Ultimate Fighter?' Sean said ‘let me get back to you on that.' I talked to my manager, he was talking to Sean also, eventually we get the OK for Ultimate Fighter. Everything went through, I went out to Vegas, did the interviews, did all the medicals, signed the contract, was there ready to weigh in."
Brunson was literally in line for the weigh-ins with the rest of the TUF cast when the bad news came down.
"I go to Jackson's for five weeks to get in real good shape, work with the coaches and work with my teammates," Brunson said, "Then they fly me out to Vegas and I sign contract, and everything was, like, good to go. I got on weight, photo shoot, and right before weigh-in, its like, I'm actually in the order of the fighters, about to weigh-in and do my physical, and one of the guys pulled me out and took me to the hall."
"I'm like dang, this has not been my year. What can happen? Nothing nothing good at this point can happen. I'm thinking all the things that could go possibly be going on at this point. Finally the producer came out, she was pretty much in tears, she was like, ‘I'm so sorry, this is one of worst situations I ever had to deal with, I really loved you for this show, but, you know, at this point you haven't been released so you can't do the show.'
As of now, Brunson doesn't have a straight answer as to why he was pulled from the show. His best guess is that he got caught up in the flow of the ongoing tug-of-war between Strikeforce, which is owned by Zuffa, and Showtime, which broadcasts the company's events.
"What I'm hearing recently is that maybe my issue might have gotten caught up in the mix of Showtime and Strikeforce, what they have going on," Brunson said. "Like, the shows being cancelled, just what I'm hearing from the media, they're not wanting to air the shows. I'm hearing I pretty much just got caught in the mix. ... These are big corporations, these guys are multi-million dollar corporations, for me, who am I?"
All Brunson can do from here, like the rest of the Strikeforce roster, is wait and see what happens. But as the father of two with bills to pay, that's easier said than done.
"It's still tough to find fights, nobody in Strikeforce is exactly raising their hand to fight me in the first place," Brunson said. "That's why I had to sit out so long to get the 'Jacare' fight. I've lost so much money this year on training camps and not having fights. ... I'm heading up to North Carolina, got to re-evaluate what's in my best interest. I've got two little girls, I've gotta do my best by them."