For a small piece of land assigned to a state that deemed mixed martial arts illegal from 1997 to 2016, Long Island has produced its fair share of professional fighters in the UFC.
No less than 18 fighters with Long Island roots — either where they grew up or where they settled in after college — have stepped inside the UFC’s octagon and competed in more than 125 fights.
Long Island’s presence in the UFC’s history goes far beyond an accent unique to this little part of the world. Matt Serra of East Meadow pulled off the biggest upset in the promotion’s history on April 7, 2007, when he knocked out Georges St-Pierre to win the welterweight title. Ten years later, it still shows up in all the Top 10 countdown shows and lists. Six years later, Baldwin’s Chris Weidman hoisted gold for Long Island once more, knocking out Anderson Silva to win the middleweight title.
As the UFC brings its first card to Long Island and Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, July 22, Newsday takes a look at the nine active fighters from here, including, in alphabetical order, Dennis Bermudez, Gregor Gillespie, Al Iaquinta, Brian Kelleher, Ryan LaFlare, Aljamain Sterling, Chris Wade, Chris Weidman and Gian Villante. Newsday also interviewed six former local fighters to see what they are doing now.
Project Editor: Mark La Monica
Principal Photographer: Chris Ware
Additional photographers: Marcus Villagran, Megan Miller
Reporters: Mark La Monica, Ryan Gerbosi
Video editors: Megan Miller, Greg Inserillo
Video graphics: Jeffrey Basinger