Dennis Buzukja wants to be featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight world champ.
Dennis Buzukja is a name many MMA fans already know. He’s a highly touted prospect with a star-studded team and his journey to the UFC has been nothing short of dramatic.
After dealing with a scary bout of COVID and losing his first appearance on DWCS, he bounced back to secure three back-to-back wins, including a first-round finish, and is well on his way to earning that highly coveted UFC contract when he steps in to face Kaleio Romero (6-1) during week 1 of the 10-week series.
“I think it’s like a more reasonable matchup than someone like Melsik [Baghdasaryan],” Buzukja told FanSided of his former opponent. “Melsik had like 300 kickboxing fights. I think it’s just the right fight for me at the right time. He’s a tough opponent. I’m not overlooking him by any means. I’m sure he’s been working hard. He hadn’t fought in like a year and change. So I know that’s another boost for me that I’ve been active and whatever his reason, I don’t know what’s going on with him. But you know, I fought tougher guys. I’m not overlooking him. He’s dangerous in his own way. He’s here for a reason. But I just think I have more experience. I fought tougher guys, and I just have more weapons to put him out, than he has to put me out.”
Buzukja has another leg up on the competition in that he’s familiar with the DWCS format and won’t be intimidated by fighting in the UFC APEX.
“I’m more comfortable in there,” he said. “The bright lights and the cameras don’t bother me. I’ve seen it. I’ve been there. You know, I cornered Aljo [Aljamain Sterling] with [Cory] Sandhagan and with the first [Petr] Yan fight, I walked out with Aljo for the second Yan fight. So I’ve just been around that atmosphere so much now that it’s like normal for me. It won’t take anything away from my focus on the fight and on my performance. So yeah, definitely a huge confidence boost for me, just there’s the familiarity with the whole venue and everything.”
Additionally, he was able to come out to Las Vegas, NV where two of his teammates split time to acclimate to the weather and train with two of the UFC’s best bantamweights.
“I came a few days early, like 10 days early, just to get a few more hard sessions in just to acclimate a little bit,” he said. “The heat is a little different, the dry heat is a different thing. I remember the last time I fought here my mouth was dry during the fight and I think it affected me a little bit also on top of everything else. So I just wanted to keep everything squared away, just to cover all bases, you know, even if it makes a 1 percent difference, and just for mental confidence just to come out here, and just get some last hard rounds with Aljo and Merab [Dvalishvili[, just like the last final hard push before I started the weight cut.”
When it comes to his opponent, Buzukja knows he’s going to get a tough fight … but nothing he can’t handle.
“I think he’s going to try to strike with me, I’m going to touch him up and he’s going to try to shoot take me down, and maybe he gets me down,” Buzukja said. “I get back up and all and just I’m gonna break him. I’m gonna break him. I’m gonna touch them up. I’m gonna hurt him and I’m gonna just put them out with the shots. Whether it’s on the ground or on the feet, I’m gonna hurt him and he’s going down. He’s gonna be the fights gonna have to be stopped.”
He went so far as to describe how he sees the fight ending.
“I think he’s tough,” he said. “I think maybe he’ll come out of the first round you know, with his wrestling and stuff you might try to hold on and I’ll have to figure him out. But I don’t think he’s getting past the second round with me. My endurance is better than it’s ever been my grappling, my striking, my timing, my awareness, just I’ve been putting it together so well and I’ve matured so much in life and in the cage from the last few fights. I think second-round KO, that’s the prediction.”
Despite still having his DWCS appearance in front of him, Buzukja isn’t afraid to set big goals.
“My ultimate goal is featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight world champ,” he said. “I like to shoot for the stars and if you fall on the moon, it is what it is, but you got to aim high. If you’re not aiming high, then what are you doing for you, and I want to be the best. I want to prove that I’m the best and just more to myself, not to anyone else. My potential is my motivation. So seeing how far I can go motivates me every day. That’s what makes me work so hard. So that’s the goal.”
Dennis Buzukja will have a star-studded UFC corner and even more in the crowd
Buzukja fights out of New York City, but the UFC APEX might feel like a hometown crowd seeing as he’ll have some of the best UFC fighters in his corner and in the small crowd.
He even had difficulties with which killer would be in his corner.
“Oh, man, this one was troublesome because first, they told me three,” he laughed. “So I had Ray [Longo] Aljo and Al [Iaquinta], which are my guys. Matt [Serra] just had knee surgery. He had a knee replacement, so he couldn’t make it. So it was them three. Then they told me two, so I was like, ‘Oh, come on!’ now I have to make a decision. Like, it breaks my heart. You know, it’s like I’m choosing like a favorite but it’s not the case. You know, I have no favorites in the gym. Everyone’s my brother. But ultimately, you know, I talked to Al and Aljo and I’ve been working with Aljo more so he knows my body, he knows what I’m looking for. We’ve been working together so it’s going to be Ray and Aljo in the corner, but Al is still coming out he’ll be there. Merab will be there. Ilir Latifi is actually gonna be there because he’s in town. He saw me training, so he’s going to come to the fight. So yeah, it’s gonna be a nice support system for me.”
Some fighters might find fighting in front of those men as added pressure. Buzukja is not that fighter.
“I don’t look at it like that I don’t really feel the pressure,” he said. “The pressure comes more from myself. I don’t want to let myself down in my performance, I know what I’m capable of. So I just want to let it all out and look good doing it. And if I do that, I know the win will come and I look good doing it if I let it all go. So the pressure from the crowd and like the UFC fighters, I know where I’m at, you know, my mentality should be like, they should be trying to look good for me, you know, like it’s just like the competitor mentality. Not saying that I’m anybody compared to them. You know, I haven’t accomplished anything compared to these guys but that’s just a mentality as a competitor, not to come off as cocky or anything.”
Buzukja fights on Tuesday, July 26. His fight, along with four others can be watched live on ESPN+ starting at 5 p.m PT.