UFC middleweight Alessio Di Chirico knows his back his against the wall, yet understands a win over one of 2020’s breakout stars can completely negate his recent skid.
Di Chirico will face Joaquin Buckley in a main card matchup this Saturday at UFC Fight Island 7. The event takes place at the new Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi and will simulcast on ABC, as well as ESPN+.
After entering 2019 on the heels of back-to-back victories, Di Chirico will be looking for his first win since then. “Manzo” has lost three consecutive unanimous decisions to Kevin Holland, Mahkmud Muradov and, in his only 2020 appearance, Zak Cummings.
When he got the contract and saw Buckley’s name on the other side, Di Chirico was elated to say the least.
“I was super excited,” Di Chirico told MMA Fighting. “He’s a very good fighter and I’m really into fighting the best guys I can fight. You’re not into UFC for the easy fights.”
Buckley burst onto the UFC scene this past year and was one of the promotion’s breakout fighters of 2020. After getting finished by Holland in his short notice debut in August, “New Mansa” opened up every eye in the MMA space with one of the most memorable knockouts in UFC history against Impa Kasanganay at UFC Fight Island 5 in October. He would follow that up with another knockout win over Jordan Wright at UFC 255 the following month.
Di Chirico gives credit where credit’s due for the amazing finish of Kasanganay, and he certainly respects Buckley as a competitor. But, overall, he hasn’t been all that impressed.
“Oh man, I’m not impressed by his surge,” Di Chirico said. “He did an impressive KO so it’s right he went viral. I was disappointed and sorry for Impa. I knew him in Vegas and he was sweet. I’m sure he’ll be back.
“There was some genius behind that kick. Well done.”
With the shared opponent between them, Di Chirico says that his preparation for this Saturday included going back to watch Holland’s third-round KO finish. Even though he hasn’t been blown away by what Buckley has done in the UFC to this point, he believes he’ll be facing the better 185er on Satu
“Obviously I watched that fight [with Holland],” Di Chirico explained. “Joaquin had a very short notice. It’s fair to say that. But you know, I think he’s way much better than that clown known as Kevin Holland.”
Currently, Buckley is listed as a high as a three to one favorite in the betting lines, which is understandable considering the current roads both fighters are traveling these days. With three straight losses, and UFC president Dana White’s recent statement that as many as 60 fighters could be released from the roster over the next few months, Di Chirico knows he is in a must-win situation and wants to use that as a lesson in staying positive in during a negative time in the world.
“For sure [my back is against the wall], but we live like that,” Di Chirico said. “You lose a couple of fights and you’re out. That’s the way it goes. I was in the same position once, before the Bamgbose fight, so that’s not new for me and believe me, I’m not gonna think about it when we’ll be in the octagon.
“As fighters, I mean as a category of people, I think we should be more united, we should fight hard into the octagon not outside between ourselves.”
As far as a prediction for the fight goes, Di Chirico sees his hand being raised following—what he expects will be—a 15 minute “war” in the promotion’s debut on ABC. For those who are doubting that the Italian fighter can pull off the upset, Di Chirico does have a prediction in that aspect.
“They will be new fans of mine Saturday night.”