To the passers-by, mixed martial arts may look like a throwback to a less civilized and less cultured society.
But, for those men and women willing to put their bodies in harm’s way, it is far more than just two people punching, kicking and contorting each other until one person is stopped from doing so.
“One of the appeals of fighting is not knowing what’s going to happen,” said Dennis Bermudez, the No. 10 ranked UFC featherweight fighter from Long Island MMA in Farmingdale. “You can only prepare and hope that you’ve done everything correctly and that you’ll execute everything correctly while you’re in there. But when everything goes your way and you dominate another man against his will, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
Bermudez knows that feeling 17 times over. He also has seen that same feeling expressed by six other fighters at his expense, including his last fight against “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung.
Bermudez, who grew up in Saugerties, New York, and moved to Long Island in 2010, takes aim at the good feeling on July 22. He’ll fight Darren Elkins in the co-main event at UFC Long Island at Nassau Coliseum. It is the promotion’s first event on Long Island and the fifth in New York since the state legalized MMA in March 2016.
“Walking into the Coliseum is going to be like another day walking in the gym,” Bermudez, 30, said. “I’m going to wake up in my bed, I’m going to drive 25 minutes to Nassau Coliseum and I’m going to throw down.”
He is one of six Long Islanders on the card that night, a group including LIMMA teammates Ryan LaFlare and Chris Wade, plus Chris Weidman, Gian Villante and Brian Kelleher.
For Bermudez, MMA became something of an extension of athletic goals he didn’t accomplish in high school and college. He wanted to be a state champion in high school, he said, but he never qualified for the state tournament. In college at Bloomsburg (Pennsylvania), he wanted to make the NCAA Tournament and make a run for the title. That didn’t happen, though he was a freestyle wrestling All-American.
When he began MMA in 2009, Bermudez set his next goal: get into the UFC. After nine pro fights, with seven wins, Bermudez earned a spot on Season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He reached the final, losing to Diego Brandao in 2011.
“It’s kind of like I’m making some headway on some goals,” Bermudez said.
Indeed, along with the next one.
“My goal was to get into the top 10,” Bermudez said. “I’m in the top 10, so now we’re trying to climb up and be a world champion.”
A seven-fight win streak from May 2012 to November 2014 pushed Bermudez to as high as No. 7 in the rankings. Back-to-back losses to Ricardo Lamas and Jeremy Stephens moved Bermudez down a few spots. He won two of his last three fights, though, keeping him in the top 10.
“I’ve got a win over Max Holloway, who’s the current UFC champion of the world,” Bermudez said “and I want to climb back up there and meet up with him again.”
|DENNIS BERMUDEZ’S UFC FIGHT HISTORY|
|Dec. 3, 2011||Ultimate Fighter Finale 14||Diego Brandao||Lost by submission, Round 1, 4:51|
|May 5, 2012||UFC on Fox 3||Pablo Garza||Won by unanimous decision|
|Aug. 11, 2012||UFC 150||Tommy Hayden||Won by submission, Round 1, 4:43|
|Feb. 23, 2013||UFC 157||Matt Grice||Won by split decision|
|May 25, 2013||UFC 160||Max Holloway||Won by split decision|
|Nov. 6, 2013||UFC Fight for the Troops||Steven Siler||Won by unanimous decision|
|March 15, 2014||UFC 171||Jimy Hettes||Won by TKO, Round 3, 2:57|
|July 26, 2014||UFC San Jose||Clay Guida||Won by submission, Round 2, 2:57|
|Nov. 15, 2014||UFC 180||Ricardo Lamas||Loss by submission, Round 1, 3:18|
|July 11, 2015||UFC 189||Jeremy Stephens||Lost by KO, Round 3, 0:33|
|Feb. 21, 2016||UFC Pittsburgh||Tatsuya Kawajiri||Won by unanimous decision|
|Aug. 6, 2016||UFC Salt Lake City||Rony Jason||Won by unanimous decision|
|Feb. 4, 2017||UFC Houston||Chan Sung Jung||Lost by KO, Round 1, 2:30|
|July 22, 2017||UFC Long Island||Darrin Elkins|
Photographer: Chris Ware
Video editor: Greg Inserillo