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Dennis Bermudez on Saturday hopes to return to his past and close the most difficult chapter in his mixed martial arts career, as he collides with Te Edwards on the UFC Fight Night 143 undercard at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. After 16 consecutive appearances in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s featherweight division, he will shift gears to 155 pounds in search of a much-needed victory.
Bermudez reached the final of “The Ultimate Fighter 14” and then rattled off 11 wins in 13 outings. However, a knockout loss to Chan Sung Jung in February marked the start of a four-fight losing streak. He elected to change course after a split decision defeat to Rick Glenn at UFC Fight Night 133 on July 14.
“I was salty [after that loss],” Bermudez told Sherdog.com.
The Long Island MMA rep took the setback hard. Bermudez felt confident ahead of the fight and remained so while awaiting the decision after three competitive rounds with Glenn.
“Going into that fight, I was like, ‘If I lose to this guy, I’m hanging up the gloves,’” he said with a laugh, “and after the third round, I’m like, ‘I won, sick.’ Then I didn’t win, and [I thought], ‘Are you kidding me?’”
Instead of joking about retirement, Bermudez seriously contemplated the idea after continuing the longest losing streak of his career. However, after he spent a few months on the sidelines working on a new YouTube page and playing Fortnite with teammate Chris Wade, “The Menace” felt a void in his life.
“I was missing something. I felt empty inside,” Bermudez said. “I sat around for a little bit, and I was like, ‘Nah, you got this man.’”
His love of the sport and athletic drive to compete contributed to his desire for a return. Nevertheless, he could not afford to maintain his self-imposed hiatus for long.
“Money does play a big part. I could [continue to stay away from the sport] while getting a real job, but I’d have to touch my investments and stuff, which I don’t want to do,” Bermudez said. “So far in the UFC, especially with these losses, I haven’t been able to make money and put money away.”
His contract with the UFC guarantees him $50,000 to fight and another $50,000 if he wins. When Bermudez incurs a loss, he claims the money he takes home only sustains him for six months at a time.
“If I only make 50 grand, I still have to pay my manager, my coaches, the whole camp, flights, hotels, and at the end of the day, [with] taxes, what’s that, like 25 grand?” he said. “If I win three fights in a year, that’s $300,000. With that, I can start putting money away and saving.”
Bermudez does not come across as making excuses, but losing out on money he feels he has earned compounds his frustration, especially when his last three losses could have easily gone in his favor with different judges. The New York native favors a system in which fighters are guaranteed greater sums of money up front, as opposed to show-and-win contract terms. He believes fighters will compete to win no matter what, but increased up-front pay would bring greater financial stability after the punishment endured in the cage.
“I’ve had this discussion with a few people. If it was like, ‘You’ll get $100,000 a fight,’ alright,” he said. “There’s no chance I’m like, ‘You know what, I’ll lay down in the first round and take my money and walk.’ No fighter is going to do that, and if they are, they aren’t going to last long. I wouldn’t fight harder, or less hard, if it was 50 and 50 or 100. I want to win. I try not to even think about the money.”
Bermudez does not feel any added pressure to end his losing streak and hold onto his roster spot. As he approaches perhaps the most pivotal fight of his career, he realizes some things are out of his control.
“To be honest with you, I don’t care. You know, like, [expletive] it. It doesn’t matter,” Bermudez said. “I’ve been working with a mental coach a little bit [to] just focus on the things you can control. I can control going out there, putting my all into it and being at my best. That’s the goal. Everything else, as long as I do that, will fall into place.”
The 32-year-old Bermudez will step back into the cage after a six-month layoff, as he takes part in the UFC’s first event on ESPN Plus. In Edwards, he faces an opponent entering his fifth year in the sport. In fact, Bermudez has more UFC appearances under his belt than Edwards has total fights. He thinks the experience gap will work in his favor.
“It didn’t matter who I fought, but what I liked about Edwards is that he’s pretty green,” Bermudez said. “Watching tape on Edwards, it seems like if he makes it out of the first round, he’s in trouble. He’s like a first-round guy.”
Bermudez seems invigorated by his return to the lightweight division.
“The only reason I went to 145 [pounds] was because I did the [“Ultimate Fighter”] show,” he said, “[and I thought], ‘Well, it’s not broken, so don’t fix it.’”
His current skid changed his thinking. Moving to 155 pounds will allow Bermudez to focus more on sharpening his skills and less on the process of cutting weight.
“Usually when I’m fighting at ’45, I’m starting my weight cut [two weeks out],” he said. “I’m doing a lot more cardio, sweating a lot, whereas this week, I’ve been able to go hard [in training] versus trying to sweat. I naturally walk around -- when I’m being a fat ass -- [at] around 175. I’ve tipped the scales at like low 80s.”
The move up in weight will be accompanied by the prospect of facing bigger and stronger opponents. However, the fact that Bermudez has competed with high-level lightweights in practice for years has alleviated many of his concerns.
“The thing is, working out with Gregor Gillespie and Chris Wade, it’s not like these guys are overpowering me,” he said. “That’s not the case. I’m just as strong as those guys, and [they have] had success at lightweight. I used to spar with Al Iaquinta. He’s killing it at 155, and I’m right there with all of those guys.”
Bermudez would not reveal how many fights he had remaining on his current UFC deal but claims to be at peace with whatever decision the promotion makes regarding his future, win or lose. However, he has no plans to seek employment elsewhere, as he feels a sense of loyalty to the organization in which he has fought for the last eight years.
“For me to go somewhere else,” Bermudez said, “they would have to offer me a boatload of money.”