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Joaquin Buckley feels pressure lifted entering UFC Fight Island 7: ‘I’m just riding the rollercoaster’

UFC Fight Night: Kasanganay v Buckley Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Joaquin Buckley will be back in action later today (Sat., Jan. 16, 2021) at UFC Fight Island 7 live on ABC/ESPN+ from inside Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., as “New Mansa” tries to follow up an epic 2020 campaign inside of the Octagon.

Buckley, who will meet veteran middleweight Alessio Di Chirico as part of the main card on ABC, is coming off two spectacular finishes just in the past three months. After losing his UFC debut on short notice to red-hot contender Kevin Holland last August Buckley captured his first UFC win with a legendary knockout finish over Impa Kasanganay in October (see it HERE). The stoppage was so insane that pressure began to build leading into Buckley’s next fight.

Luckily, Buckley was able to follow his efforts up with a monstrous finish over previously undefeated prospect Jordan Wright in November (highlights HERE). It wasn’t as impressive as his stoppage over Kasanganay but enough to keep the doubters off Buckley’s back.

“It lifted a lot of weight [off me] because of all the social media and everybody expecting something crazy or phenomenal, so to get that second win, now I don’t have any pressure,” Buckley told UFC.com. “People know what I’m capable of and that’s what they should expect.”

Buckley, 26, has already fought for other promotions such as Bellator MMA and Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA), but seems to have carved out a home as a rising contender in the UFC’s middleweight faction. That is a testament to Buckley’s resolve after losing his Octagon debut and also UFC, who continues to put the young knockout artist in positions to shine.

This Saturday will be no different as Buckley prepares to capture another highlight-reel finish on broadcast television.

“This is the biggest opportunity to do it - being on ABC, the debut, it’s a history making card within itself. So, to go out there and do what I do best, in front of the most people I’m probably going to get for right now, it’s time to capitalize on the opportunity,” Buckley said. “I think it’s actually better than being on a PPV because you have so many people watching you at one time for free. I’ve got a lot of new fans, a lot of people love exciting fights win or lose, and everybody becomes a fan. So, to be fighting on ABC and if I do what I come to do, we’re probably going to be hitting some new numbers.”

As for the fight itself, Buckley isn’t ready to talk down on Di Chirico and dismiss his abilities as a fighter. Instead, Buckley is looking at the Italian’s three-fight losing streak as something that will fuel Di Chirico and make their main card matchup even crazier.

“With Alessio, I think he’s a big threat because he’s coming off a three-fight losing streak right now,” Buckley said of his opponent. “He’s fighting for his job right now but, at the end of the day, that’s just going to make for a better fight because the more pressure he brings, the more probability of me knocking him out.”

If Buckley is able to score another knockout finish this weekend it will elevate his UFC stock beyond belief. We haven’t really seen Buckley’s ground game in action and he could eventually run into trouble as he approaches the middleweight top 15, but the sky is truly the limit for the young fighter as 2021 begins to heat up.

“I’m just riding the rollercoaster man, so I appreciate if you think I’m doing it pretty well. But everything that has come, I kind of dreamt of this moment,” Buckley said.

“I never thought it would be this soon, but I dreamt of being here before. It’s just visualization and seeing myself here before and making myself familiar with it.”

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Island 7 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ and ABC at 3 p.m. ET.

For more UFC Fight Island 7 fight card news click here.