It’s a new year, but Joaquin Buckley is still being asked about his star-making moment from 2020.
Wednesday’s media day for UFC Fight Island 7 in Abu Dhabi marked Buckley’s first opportunity to speak to reporters en masse about the Knockout of the Year awards that he’d won from the UFC and various publications (including MMA Fighting) for his stunning spin kick knockout of Impa Kasanganay last October. Buckley has fought and won since, scoring another impressive KO against Jordan Wright at UFC 255 the following month, but his win over Kasanganay still has fans and media buzzing.
Buckley joked that there could be a day when he’s tired of being asked about the viral KO (“Give it about 10 years,” he said). He was then reminded that to this day Anthony Pettis is fielding questions about the “Showtime Kick” that he landed to put the exclamation point on a decision win over Benson Henderson back in 2010.
Asked to compare his highlight-reel strike to Pettis’ legendary maneuver, Buckley offered this:
“I got the knockout,” he said, laughing. “That’s all I gotta say.”
With everyone buzzing about his first UFC victory, Buckley was aware of both the positive and negative comments surrounding that performance. He admits that ahead of his fight with Wright, it was the negativity that had him off of his game early on.
“I let the social media, pretty much the haters from the comments and the DMs get to me a little bit and it added more pressure to try to deliver,” Buckley said. “But after I hurt him in the first round and then the second round, (coach) Joaquin Murcielago, he really kind of calmed me down and told me it’s just another fight. I’m a dog and just to go out there and go get my bone.”
Buckley’s first assignment of 2021 is veteran middleweight Alessio Di Chirico. The Italian is currently on a three-fight skid, but Buckley is not looking past him nor does he want to assume that his recent success will matter much when he steps into the cage on Saturday as much as he appreciates the accolades.
“I gotta enjoy it,” Buckley said. “I gotta have fun with it. Me winning that award is a big deal, it’s history-making. That’s gonna go down for a very long time and people will look back on that and just say how amazing that moment was. So for me, I’ve just got to enjoy the moment, but just not bask in it.
“It happened, move on to the next, and Alessio’s definitely going to be on that mark for 2021 Knockout of the Year.”
When Buckley defeated Kasanganay, the fight took place in a Flash Forum occupied only by fighters, coaches, and essential personnel; this time, Buckley and Di Chirico will compete at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena with a few thousand fans expected to be in attendance. As much as he thinks the impact of his spin kick KO was amplified by the silence of an empty venue, he looks forward to the “shock value” that screaming fans can provide when a big finish happens.
Should he get past Di Chirico, Buckley wants to stay busy while also having a strategy when it comes to his career, with an eye on title contention next year.
“I’m thinking about that fast rise for sure,” Buckley said. “Fighting the right fights at the right time and then 2022, definitely having that gold belt around.”