Two months into what he thought could be a life without fighting, Dennis Bermudez felt less than thrilled with himself.
Video games, Twitch and YouTube just weren’t cutting it for the man who spent the previous 10 years as a mixed martial artist competing in the middle of an arena, locked in a roofless cage with thousands of eyes focused on every move and all anticipating a punch or a kick that would end one fighter’s night and send the people in attendance into an adrenaline-fueled frenzy.
“It wasn’t filling the void,” said Bermudez of Lindenhurst.
Back in the gym Bermudez went. And not just because he “got a little fat.” This was a little more meta than a few pounds here and there.
“I guess I didn’t feel important, maybe," Bermudez said. “I started training a little bit just to make myself feel better. I felt better. So I said, why not, let’s do another one.”
Bermudez will face Te Edwards in a lightweight bout at UFC Brooklyn at Barclays Center on Saturday night. It is the first UFC event for ESPN, the promotion’s new broadcast partner. Bermudez’s bout on the early prelims will show on ESPN+, the network’s digital streaming service. Edwards (6-1) lost his UFC debut last October by head-kick knockout in the second round to Don Madge.
This will be Bermudez’s first fight in the UFC at lightweight. He began his career as a lightweight, going 7-2 before “The Ultimate Fighter” cast featherweights for Season 14. Bermudez, who trains at Long Island MMA in Farmingdale, saw that as an opportunity, and he parlayed that into the final fight of that season and then seven-plus years and 16 fights in the UFC.
Bermudez (16-9) is looking forward to not taxing his body so hard during fight week to make the 145-pound featherweight mark. He said he usually walks around at about 175 pounds when not in fight camp.
“I just feel like I lose so much juice in that last 10 pounds getting down to 45,” Bermudez said. “Cutting 20 pounds versus 30 pounds just sounds so much easier.”
Bermudez has lost his last four fights, the longest such streak of his career. The past three losses came by split decision, and in each case, if one judge saw one round differently, he’s sitting on a three-fight win streak, probably still fighting at featherweight and likely not thinking about retirement.
That’s not the case, though. Still, Bermudez remains focused on what’s ahead in the short term.
“Just looking to finish Edwards in a menacing fashion, and we’ll see what’s up,” Bermudez said. “Maybe we’ll retire, maybe we’ll get in another quick fight.”
Bermudez also has two longer-term reasons he rose up off the couch, turned off the video game console and returned to the sport.
“I want my kids to look back and say, you know what, my dad, he still went back and got a dub,” Bermudez said. “He didn’t give up.”