Dennis Bermudez's Ultimate wait finally reaches final

Dennis Bermudez, a mixed martial artist from Massapequa, Dennis Bermudez, a mixed martial artist from Massapequa, leaps in the air before landing on a training bag at Long Island MMA in Lindenhurst. He is a contestant on Season 14 of "The Ultimate Fighter." (Sept. 22, 2011) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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Dennis Bermudez accomplished the number one goal on his summer to-do list, and he's had to keep his mouth shut about it ever since.

The 24-year-old mixed martial artist living in Massapequa reached the Season 14 final of "The Ultimate Fighter" in July, but the rules governing the show prevented him from telling friends and family.

"It's definitely been tough," Bermudez said. "A lot of people I train with or people that are around me a lot know what I went for or have an idea. Then when I got back, they wanted to know how I did."

He did quite well. Bermudez faces Diego Brandao in tomorrow's Ultimate Finale in Las Vegas for this season's featherweight crown and a six-figure contract with the UFC. The fights start at 8 p.m. on Spike. TJ Dillashaw and John Dodson will fight to win the show's bantamweight division. Bermudez could become the second fighter from Long Island to win the show. East Meadow's Matt Serra won Season 4 in 2006 and parlayed that into winning the UFC welterweight title from Georges St-Pierre six months later.

Bermudez reached the finale by submitting Akira Corassini in the first round on the Nov. 9 episode. Brandao knocked out Bryan Caraway in the first round in Wednesday night's episode.

Spike and UFC taped the show in six weeks last June and July, so those involved have known the four finalists for five months. Each time Bermudez watched the show with friends at Rookies Sports Bar in Huntington, he had to keep quiet.

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"They got a $5 million lawsuit ready to rock and roll," Bermudez said about the penalty for revealing details in advance.

Each time Bermudez gave a lesson at Long Island MMA in Lindenhurst, he had to dodge more than just some punches.

"It's 'Hey, you have to watch and find out,' " Bermudez said. "Winning, thus far, all the matches, it's a little more rewarding."

And relaxing.

Once his appearance in the final became public knowledge, Bermudez could exhale. He could breathe again.

"It's like you just finished that 20-page essay that was due for six weeks and you just handed it in," said Bermudez, who defeated Jimmie Rivera in the elimination round and Stephen Bass in the preliminary round. "It was a sense of relief. I can relax now."

Until tomorrow night, that is.

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