Backyard fights: UFC coming to Long Island for 1st time
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Chris Weidman and Dennis Bermudez acknowledged the obvious.
This is not a traditional fight week for either man. This is different. This is exciting.
This is the first chance to fight at home.
“It’s Long Island, man,” Weidman said during a media availability this week, ahead of Saturday night’s UFC on Fox show originating from the Nassau Coliseum. The nationally televised card has 13 fights on it, with the four main card fights carried on Fox in the United States.
The event is the first professional mixed martial arts card that UFC has held at the onetime home of the NHL’s New York Islanders.
“I love fighting and being from here. Getting to put on a show in front of my home crowd I take a lot of pride in that, so I’m excited to fill the place up,” Weidman said. “There (are) a lot of people who live (on) Long Island. To be in the main even at the first Nassau Coliseum UFC event, it’s amazing.”
For both Weidman and Bermudez, the card also presents opportunities to reset careers that have hit speed bumps.
Weidman (13-3) headlines the card against Kelvin Gastelum (14-2) in a middleweight bout, despite coming off three straight losses, although the possibility exists that the No. 5 ranked middleweight could move up in title contention with a win. The current champion, Michael Bisping, is likely to meet interim champion Robert Whittaker in a title unification fight.
Weidman, 33, wrestled collegiately at Hofstra University. He was asked this week if he wanted to avenge his Dec. 12, 2005, technical knockout loss to Luke Rockhold.
“I need to win this fight” against Gastelum, he said. “Then I’ll let the people decide who they want me to fight.”
In Bermudez’s case, the 30-year old has lost three of his last five fights and has dropped to 10th in the featherweight division rankings.
“My last fight didn’t go as planned,” Bermudez (17-6) said about his Feb. 4 knockout loss to Chan Sung Jung. “I want to go in there Saturday and show that wasn’t the real Dennis Bermudez, that I just had a little slip up.”
To that end, Bermudez shared a bit of the philosophy he is planning on implementing against No. 12 featherweight Darren Elkins (23-5) in the semi-main event.
“Hard work and no quit. That’s the way I’ve always trained,” Bermudez said. “I get in there and give it my all. In my practices I’m always trying to win. As I get older in my career I’m not only trying to win (but) I’m trying to learn as well. So I’ll go in there with a mind and technique that will work and I’ll get better at it and become a better overall fighter.”
Both Bermudez and Weidman noted this fight week was unusual because neither had to leave their stomping grounds. While Weidman said his wife ordered him to stay at a local hotel, Bermudez is preparing at home.
“The normal feel of a fight week is looking for something to do and where to go, or where I’m going to eat,” he said. “Having this fight in (my) own backyard gives me the ability to do the same things I’ve been doing throughout this entire fight camp. Nothing has changed. I sleep in my own bed. I drive my own car. I cook on my grill and it’s awesome.”
Saturday’s event will be the fifth held in New York since the state legalized professional MMA on Mar. 22, 2016. UFC will run one more event in New York in 2017, the UFC 217 pay-per-view from Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4.
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