In college a decade or so ago, Dennis Bermudez went searching for a custom mouthguard. He found one with fangs. He bought it.
Fangs have been part of Bermudez’s fight persona ever since, from his current mouthguards for mixed martial arts to his logo on websites.
“Something about when I open my mouth, I feel like I personally have fangs and I think it scares people sometimes,” Bermudez said. “It gives me a little bit of extra confidence.”
In a sport such as MMA, an aggressive display of physicality between two competitors each aiming to inflict bodily harm on the other, any boost of confidence can’t hurt.
Well, sort of.
“I feel like the one with more confidence is going to hit harder,” Bermudez said.
The featherweight has seen his share of hitting hard and being hit the same way in his first dozen UFC fights. He gets a 13th opportunity to showcase himself in the octagon on Saturday when he faces “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in the main event at UFC Fight Night 104 in Houston. The fight card will air on Fox Sports 1.
Jung (13-4, 4-3 UFC) last fought more than three years ago at UFC 163, losing a title shot against then-featherweight champion Jose Aldo in August 2013. He was away from the octagon first because of a shoulder injury suffered against Aldo, then by South Korea’s two-year mandatory military service obligations for male citizens.
Bermudez (17-5, 9-3), who trains at Long Island MMA in Farmingdale, isn’t letting Jung’s 1,281-day layoff play a part in his preparation.
“I’m fighting ‘Korean Zombie’ like he’s the No. 5 ranked guy in the division,” Bermudez said. “I’m looking at this fight like he never missed a beat.”
Three-plus years away from the cage is one thing to contend with for both Jung and Bermudez, but Bermudez also must add this to his fight week plans: being the main event.
Bermudez has had his name and likeness on UFC fight posters before, but never at the top and attached to everything from promotional material to billboards to commercials to the info screen on TV set-top cable boxes.
With the main event comes added media obligations to a longer-than-normal waiting period on fight night.
“There’s already enough stress as it is in fighting,” Bermudez said. “I’m looking at it like I’m the first fight of the night.”
Bermudez’s first main event, a week prior to UFC 208 in Brooklyn, does have its perks, though.
“In terms of branding and promotional reasons,” Bermudez said, “being the main event is higher on the list than fighting in New York.”