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Expecting father who lives in gym parking lot confused about missing out on life-changing UFC Vegas 78 bonus: ‘I earned it’

UFC Fight Night: Marshall v Dulgarian Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Being a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter is anything but easy.

Isaac Dulgarian is coming off a super impressive Octagon debut at UFC Vegas 78 this past weekend (Sat., Aug. 12, 2023), wrecking fellow prospect, Francis Marshall, in the first round with brutal ground-and-pound (watch highlights).

The only missing from his glorious weekend? The coveted $50,000 "Performance of the Night" bonus, which he feels he earned with the eye-opening performance.

"Man, I was kind of upset because I don't know what more I could have done,” Dulgarian told in a recent interview. “I don't know what more they could ask me to do in a debut — I think I did everything that was expected of me for myself and my coaches, and I just did a great job. So, seeing other guys get the $50,000 bonus was frustrating for me. I feel like I earned it — I don't deserve anything or want anything just given to me. I earned it.”

Dana White and Co. awarded four UFC Vegas 78 bonuses: Da’Mon Blackshear for a super rare twister submission (see it); Marcus McGhee for his one-punch knockout over JP Buys (watch here); Khalil Rountree for his vicious finish over Chris Daukaus (replay here); and Iasmin Lucindo for her arm-triangle choke submission of Polyana Viana.

“Honestly, I think that was the performance of the night,” Dulgarian added. “I was a big underdog, and I came in and spoiled the party, man. I spoiled the whole party. Everyone lost money unless you believed in me. But, it is what it is. I’m about to have a baby. I just found out today, actually, that I’m going to be a father. So, I’m super excited about that. That bonus would have changed my life and the life of my child. It would have set me up for some good things.”

On top of expecting a child, Dulgarian lives in his RV outside his new gym, Factory X Muay Thai, in Englewood, Colorado. His car is also broken, which means he needs to Uber everywhere he needs to go. So, it's safe to say receiving a “Performance of the Night” for his finish of Marshall would have really helped him.

"First off, I would have made sure my child is set to go, man,” Dulguarian continued. “Like I said, that's something I've always wanted. Now that I'm going to be a father, it's more about my child than anything. Also, right now, I'm hooked up to the Factory X electricity. Thank you to [head coach] Mark Montoya for allowing me to do that — it's a blessing.

“But, I'd like to get into a park,” Dulgarian continued. “You know, I want to buy some property and finally get set up here in Colorado. A lot of people were saying that like, I'm homeless and this and that. I'm not homeless, bro. I have a nice RV, but I want to improve my life even more. You know, I don't do this sport to look cool. I don't do it for the clout or the Instagram followers. I'm trying to get paid so I can have a real life and enjoy life. That is why I fight."

Dulgarian's path to his UFC debut was difficult. He was part of the now-defunct Glory MMA, which was shut down late last year because of UFC’s enormous betting scandal. As a result, the 27-year-old was left without a gym and had to find a new one, so he was recommended to Factory X.

"Man, I was sent through the wringer. I've been through the wash cycle a couple of times, but it's all good," Dulgarian said. "I'm grateful for the up and downs that come with this journey. They're gonna come whether you win lose — you could be winning all your fights and still have some crazy things go down. So, it's just all about perseverance for me. And not giving up on the dream that I've had since I was a kid. Because there's been plenty of times when I thought, ‘Why do I do this?’"

The undefeated fighter also got shafted when it came to being sponsored by the Nelk Boys. In Feb. 2021, at Fighting Alliance Championship (FAC) 12: Lookin' For a Fight, he was chosen by the famous entertainment company to be its sponsored fighter after he knocked out his opponent in less than two minutes.

Unfortunately, the sponsorship never came ... and he was ghosted.

"Man, it would have been crazy for me,” Dulgarian said. “I've had to do a lot of things and change a lot of things in my life to keep doing what I'm doing because of that situation. And I thought that was going to be my breakout moment. The hardest part about it all was telling my grandpa that it's not happening because he's the only reason I get to do what I do — he put his whole career and life savings into me, man.

“So like, being able to tell him like, 'Hey, I don't need help anymore. I'm good. I'm set. Let me help you out now' was the big thing for me,” Dulgarian continued. “And the fact that I'm not able to do that right now, and he's getting older, it's kind of frustrating for me."

Even though Dulgarian has had a rough road so far, he is hopeful that the Nelk Boys will come back around now that he has a UFC victory. And if they don't, he isn't going to stop what he's best at: winning.

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