Dennis Bermudez is one fight away from fulfilling his dreams.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 14 featherweight contestant battled his way through three tough foes, likely having the most difficult path of all to become a finalist for TUF's final run on Spike TV.
Bermudez came back and defeated potential show favorite Jimmie Rivera just to get into the house, dominated Stephen Bass in the quarterfinals and then capped off his run by shutting up the loudmouthed Akira Corassani to punch his ticket to the Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale.
The Long Island MMA fighter will make his UFC debut on Saturday night (December 3, 2011) and he spoke with MMAmania.com about his comeback mentality, the origins of his trademark yellow mouthpiece and just how badly he wants to the the next 'Ultimate Fighter.'
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): During the course of the show, it seemed like you developed a really tight bond with bantamweights Dustin Pague and Johnny Bedford, I believe you'd trained with Dustin before. Can you talk about that?
Dennis Bermudez: Those guys are like my brothers, man. It was really cool to have Dustin on the show because I know him from before the show and Johnny Bedford wrestled Division I in the same conference I was in so me and him had mutual friends so we bonded well. We were together through thick and thin on the show.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): One of your trademarks is the yellow fanged mouthguard. I'm interested in the origins of it.
Dennis Bermudez: Well actually, I had the fanged mouthpiece in college because I wanted a fanged mouthpiece to look cool so I got that and it's actually supposed to be white but I've cut my tongue over the few years of having it and the blood seeped into it and stained it. Red plus white over time I guess makes yellow. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about your experience on the show. I know you had a couple times in fights where you got rocked early against both Akira Corassani and Jimmie Rivera but then you came back. Can you talk about that resurgent mentality that you have?
Dennis Bermudez: Well I wrestled in college and a lot of times, guys were technically better than me but I never gave up. I would let my conditioning win me wrestling matches. Even though I was down and out, in my head I'm never down and out. When I used to play football, there'd be games where we were getting smoked like 45-7 but I would play as hard as I could until the last play even though there's no way to come back, I was still trying to make the big hit or make something happen. I'm never out of a fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is that any cause for concern though, to not get off to those slow starts?
Dennis Bermudez: Yeah, I've been putting a ton of time in working on my head movement and my hands. That's where I've felt the most improvement since the show stopped taping.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I read an interview of yours where you talked about how you were even considering throwing in the towel in MMA if you hadn't progressed to your likings in 2012. Can you talk about that experience?
Dennis Bermudez: Well, I've got a really good idea of where I'm at and I wanted to be there. I felt like I wasn't getting there and I was thinking, "Man, if something doesn't happen, I don't know if this is for me," because there's not a lot of money in those B-class fights, you know?
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you dropped down to featherweight, was your first fight at featherweight your fight to get into the show?
Dennis Bermudez: Yeah, I'd never fought at featherweight before the tryout.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That's crazy to me because most guys, they get onto The Ultimate Fighter and they're undersized because they know they have to make weight like three or four times in a span of a few weeks.
Dennis Bermudez: Well, I wrestled for a long time and in wrestling you have to make weight every week or twice a week so I'm pretty good at maintaining my weight over a period of time so once I got down originally, I was pretty confident that I could maintain.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So what weight did you wrestle at in college?
Dennis Bermudez: I wrestled at 149 and 157, so now I'm closer to my original wrestling weight class.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It seems a love of fighting is hereditary because I saw your mom actually writes about MMA and she's fully embraced your MMA lifestyle. How helpful has it been to have some really supportive parents through all this?
Dennis Bermudez: It's good. I've found it can get annoying too because they always seem to have a lot of questions and they're always the same questions that everybody else has so it gets repetitive. Other than that, though, it's good. They support me 100 percent and whatever I need, they help me with that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were kinda quiet on the show but you had a mini-feud where Akira was being pretty annoying towards you in the lead-up to your fight. Did it give you any satisfaction to get the finish against him in the semifinals?
Dennis Bermudez: I didn't look at the win as a revenge-type thing, it was more what I'd planned for myself in the first place. I'd planned on being in the finals and winning the whole thing so when I beat him, that was just more a feeling of fulfilling what I'd went there for and afterwards, it felt a little nice to beat him for the things he said too.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): During that episode, did that bother you at all the way you were portrayed where they were making fun of some of the things you were saying?
Dennis Bermudez: It wasn't so bad. In real life I'm a jokester so I just laughed at it and I just try to have fun with life in general, have a good time and make people laugh whether it makes sense or not.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Thanks for talking to me Dennis, my last question for you is: how badly do you want to be the next Ultimate Fighter now that it's finally less than a week away?
Dennis Bermudez: I dream about it. I think about it a lot. I just think it's gonna happen, you know? It's my time.
Dennis would like to thank his jiu-jitsu coach Gregg DePasquale, his striking coach Keith Trimble, all-around MMA coach Ryan LaFlare and his primary training partners Greg Gillespie and Ryan Needle. He'd also like to thank his sponsors Warpath Inc. and Headrush. You can follow him on twitter @MenaceBermudez.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will the Bermudez make the cut to featherweight worth it by winning season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter? What do you think of his potential in the UFC?