Dennis Bermudez (left) exchanges punches with Rick Glenn at UFC Boise. (Photo: Josh Hedges/Getty Images)
Dennis Bermudez finds himself in the middle of one of the most trying times in his 16-fight Ultimate Fighting Championship career. At UFC Fight Night 133 in Boise, Idaho, this past Saturday night, “The Menace” was handed his fourth straight loss. At this moment, the longtime featherweight standout is questioning many things, including how much longer he wants to continue in the sport.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie to you,” Bermudez told Sherdog.com. “I’m mentally and physically fatigued by everything I’ve put my body through.”
This is not the first losing streak for the 31-year-old, but it is the longest and by far the most frustrating, partly because the last three have come by way of split decision. The most recent of those, in Boise against Rick Glenn, surprised many pundits and fans of the sport. The striking stats between the two were fairly even, but Bermudez landed six takedowns in the bout compared to zero for his opponent. The judges’ decision leaves Bermudez searching for any reason why they would have favored Glenn over him, even if the reasons don’t make much sense.
“The only thing I can think of is after every round he raised his hands [in triumph],” Bermudez said with a laugh.
The outcome is confusing not only for Bermudez but for the coaches and trainers who worked with him in the lead up to the bout.
“It leaves a real bitter taste in their mouth like it does me,” Bermudez said. Bermudez claims Ryan LaFlare, a fellow UFC fighter and teammate of at Long Island MMA, was also flabbergasted.
“[LaFlare] told me ‘Man, that makes me not even want to fight,’” Bermudez said.
When asked if he would protest this recent split-decision to the Idaho athletic commission, Bermudez seems uninterested. The same goes for bringing the issue to the UFC. Neither course of action seems worth the effort. Nor does he want to come off as a sour loser -- even if he has a legitimate case to make.
“I mean, I’m not a cry baby,” he said.
The series of defeats has been taxing on many levels. One, of course, is physical: the New York native often goes the distance in his bouts, making the recent span of close decision losses exhausting as well as heartbreaking.
“My last couple of losses I don’t even have the energy in the locker room to be upset,” Bermudez said. “I’m that tired and put that much into the fight.”
When the adrenaline wears off and he gets a second wind, the pain in his body and mind set in. However, the effect on his bank account is just as severe.
Since Bermudez has a traditional show/win contract, he estimates he has lost out on earning $150,000 during his recent skid. Without those win bonuses, he is left with his “show money” only, and must pay his expenses out of that purse, leaving less than one might expect.
“I get $50,000 to show up, but that’s before I pay all my corners and my manager, the flights, the hotels [and] that’s before I pay taxes,” he said. “After all that’s said and done, maybe we are looking at $30,000.”
Bermudez fought twice in 2017 and twice so far this year. For a fighter with his résumé, bringing home only $60,000 a year can show the massive effect questionable judging can have on a fighter’s finances. Making less money than expected has also hampered his opportunities to improve his life.
“I don’t have the biggest house out of any of my friends,” he said. “I probably have the smallest house out of my friends that have houses.”
For the most part, outside of buying his home and his vehicle -- a $30,000 Jeep -- Bermudez has tried to be smart with his money.
“You can ask my friends, I am a little bit cheap because I know that [a fighting career] doesn’t last forever,” he said. “I don’t have gold chains and expensive watches.”
He has tried to invest his money where he can and foregoes financing purchases that incur large interest rates. “I feel I’ve done a nice job of trying to manage my money over the years,” Bermudez said. “And the goal with this sport was to make enough money, that when I was done fighting I didn’t have to work a normal job.”
Yet in a sport with a business model usually based around show/win payouts instead of flat rates, having one’s financial future rest in the hands of judges can be tough. It makes him wish fighters were better taken care of financially.
“I’m not sitting here saying the UFC [pay] is complete sh*t. Could it be better? Yea,” he said.
When a fighter gets to the position Bermudez has, then racked up several losses in a row, it is only human to wonder about job security. Bermudez feels confident, to a point. “I don’t think my job’s in jeopardy, but I mean it definitely could be,” he said.
Bermudez believes that job security is helped by his reputation for action-packed fights, and points to his bookings as evidence. Bermudez has been part of the main or co-main event of three of the last four cards on which he has fought. Even after three losses, he feels the organization appreciated his effort by where he was placed on the Boise card.
“[Darren] Elkins had a win over me,” Bermudez said. “Chad Mendes has fought for a title multiple times, [Myles] Jury is higher in the rankings then I am, and I was above all of those guys on the fight card. I think the UFC really likes me. I think every time I show up and fight they don’t have to question if [it will be entertaining.]”
However, Bermudez is still aware of the reality of the profession he is in. “If they release me I totally see where they’re coming from. Usually after three losses you’re out,” he said.
The final question is where Bermudez goes from here. Before he faced Glenn, Bermudez had plans to take some time off, reinvent himself and “learn to miss the sport,” as he termed it. Yet when he received the call to face Glenn, he took on the task to show he was a loyal employee.
When the topic of taking that long vacation comes up, Bermudez raises the question of whether he wants to come back at all. He wonders aloud on the beating the sport has put on his body and his brain. He mentions the stories on the dangers of CTE in violent sports like football or MMA.
“They say that MMA is worse than football,” Bermudez said. “I don’t know if I want to chance that.”
The fears he has about himself are only compounded by the concerns of his children who see him return home from a fight battered.
“I have these two little guys that make me so happy,” he said. “Coming home with a black eye and my nose being swollen, [they say] ‘Hey Dad you have a booboo’? And I say ‘Yeah son I’ve got a booboo.’ That sucks too.”
The veteran of 25 fights is not yet calling it quits on his career, but neither is he itching to get back into the cage right away. Yet he is clearly thinking more than ever about the next chapter in life when he says, “Maybe it’s time to do something different. Maybe it’s time to use my brain more than my body.”