Dennis Buzukja

Photo by Angelo Carchesio

Buzukja reflects on becoming champion

Dennis Buzukja is grateful for all three rounds of his championship bout with Tim Dooling.

Buzukja became Ring of Combat’s [ROC] second youngest champion after earning a unanimous decision against Tim Dooling at ROC 71 on Feb. 21. Finishing his opponents is always Buzukja’s agenda, but he’s OK with winning in an all-out war.

“They are calling it the greatest fight in the Ring of Combat they’ve ever seen,” Buzukja said. “I haven’t seen all the fights, but if a fight can top that, I gotta watch that fight.”

The Longo and Weidman Mixed Martial Arts product joined familiar company with his title victory. Many of his teammates, including housemate and current UFC lightweight Al Iaquinta, held ROC strap at one time.

Buzukja said he is the promotion’s youngest featherweight champion at 22 years old. He’s also the second youngest ROC champion ever behind the gym’s head jiu-jitsu instructor, Pete Sell, who became the middleweight champion in 2003. 

Merab Dvalishvili, Chris Weidman and Eddie Gordon are former ROC champions and teammates of Buzukja.

Training and sparring at Serra Longo is the preparation he needed for a fight like Dooling.

“I go in there confident and ready to fight because I train with them,” Buzukja said. “I know they’ve been through the ringer and they’ve done it all. They take their time to work with me and make me better, so I go in there with the mentality to give everything in there and make them proud.”

The Test

Dooling was by far the most experienced fighter Buzukja faced with 15 bouts to his name. That’s three more fights than all of Bujukja’s previous four opponents combined, based on the time he fought them.

Dooling’s right eye almost completely shut from swelling by the end of the first round. Dooling also fought a portion of the second round while covering his other eye with his left hand.

Buzukja came forward, but Dooling refused to go away.

“He [Dooling] is a bigger guy, he’s not intimidated, he’s not backing down and that’s really what I took away from this fight.” Buzukja said. “I didn’t want to explode and spend all my energy because I knew going into the fight he was very durable and had good cardio.”

Buzukja is interested in returning to the cage, especially with ROC 72 scheduled for May 29. Buzukja’s main objective is to fight inside the octagon, whether he needs to defend his belt or get an immediate call up.

The victory over Dooling is a statement win for Buzukja, especially after capturing his first professional title. An immediate rematch is not something the current champion is eying at the moment.

If the two fight again or not, it’s one Buzukja can easily recall.

“With that experience I gained from that fight, I’m healthier, I gained more trust and confidence in myself,” Buzukja said. “It’s a fan friendly fight because of the styles, but right now, it’s about moving forward in my career to get to the UFC.”

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Connor Northrup
Connor Northrup once covered municipal meetings and promised himself never again. He is now combining his passion for Mixed Martial Arts and reporting all into one.