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Joaquin Buckley at the St Louis Arch, May 2024
Athletes

Joaquin Buckley And His Return To St. Louis

“New Mansa” Steps Into The Co-Main Event Spotlight In His Hometown Against Nursulton Ruziboev

Joaquin Buckley’s wish was granted.

The St. Louis native crashed the UFC 300 press conference, ringing in the final question for UFC CEO Dana White. His made his offer clear, a fight in St. Louis.

“I haven't fought here since 2018, and now to be fighting on the biggest promotion on the planet right at home and getting exactly what I asked for,” Buckley said. “We didn't get the main event, but still, co-main is just as nice and I'm excited to get this knockout.”

Full St. Louis Fight Card Preview

Following his proposal at the press conference, Buckley said it took a little bit to get things rolling and get a fight signed. When he first got the call, there were no names attached to who he would be facing. Initially, he wanted to have the fight at a catchweight, but when that wasn’t an option, Buckley agreed to have the fight at 170 pounds in order to make sure that fight would happen.

Joaquin Buckley reacts by pouring a bottle of Prime Hydration over himself after knocking out Andre Fialho of Portugal in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 20, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Joaquin Buckley reacts after knocking out Andre Fialho of Portugal in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night on May 20, 2023 in Las Vegas, NV (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

And as he prepares to face Nursulton Ruziboev, he’s eager to put on a show for his hometown.

“I feel like I'm bringing the fans out for this one,” Buckley said. “I think a lot of people, even though they're excited to see Derrick Lewis and excited to see all the other fighters, I think I'm kind of boosting up the numbers a little bit for this one.”

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When I spoke to Buckley on Tuesday of fight week, I said it felt like we were just in Atlantic City discussing his win over Vicente Luque, and he exclaimed, ‘We were!”

Joaquin Buckley: The Kick Heard Around The World
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Joaquin Buckley: The Kick Heard Around The World
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Just five weeks ago, Buckley secured the biggest win of his MMA career thus far, defeating Luque by TKO in the second round. That win put Buckley at No. 11 in the rankings, and even though it was a huge win for his welterweight career, “New Mansa” is only focused on the present now and the man who is coming for his spot.

RELATED: Buckley's Athlete Profile

“It means a lot to me that I'm able to be a ranked fighter now, and it gets me closer to that title,” Buckley said. “Every fight has its own rewards to it. I’m not looking back in the past with having that fight with Vicente; I'm blessed with it, and I'm blessed with that win. Now we're looking at Nursulton, who's now trying to take my spot, and I just got it. We're going to stop him from doing that.”

His opponent is no easy task, a man that stands at 6’5 with 76-inch reach, compared to Buckley, who is only 5’10, but has the same reach. Ruziboev is only in his third UFC fight, but overall, he has a record of 34-8-2, 2 NC. Thirty-two of his 34 wins have come by finish, earning 25 of them in the first round.

Joaquin Buckley at the St Louis Arch, May 2024 (Photo by Deandre Barthwell/Zuffa LLC)
Joaquin Buckley at the St Louis Arch, May 2024 (Photo by Deandre Barthwell/Zuffa LLC)

On the flip side, Buckley has earned 13 of his 18 wins by knockout, so this fight promises fireworks.

“He's a big boy, 6'5, could have been an NBA player if he wanted to be,” Buckley said. “I don't know how his game is on the court, but regardless, though, I got to respect him. He has a lot of finishes in his career, and, of course, me, I'm a knockout artist as well, so this fight is not going to the judges, obviously.”

BUCKLEY FREE FIGHT: Joaquin vs Vicente Luque

Buckley has spent time preparing to face his taller opponent by training with guys that are similar to his size, but he admits it’ll be a tall task to finish him.

Joaquin Buckley reacts after defeating Albert Duraev of Russia in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Moody Center on June 18, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Joaquin Buckley reacts after defeating Albert Duraev of Russia in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Moody Center on June 18, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

“I think I need a stepladder to knock him out.”

Even though defeating Ruziboev may not move Buckley forward in the rankings, he does believe that this will have a great reward when it comes to the UFC fanbase and star building, in addition to what will come next when he returns to the Octagon.

Order UFC 302: Makhachev vs Poirier

“I think this is going to be the one that kind of blows me up,” Buckley said. “I think this is the one that actually takes my career to the next level and makes me skip some spots. A good performance over Nursulton and what he brings and what he has to offer, I feel like the UFC is definitely going to reward me after this.”

The emotions during his walk are to be determined, but Buckley is definitely going to make the most of that moment.

“I don't know what it’s going to feel like just quite yet, but when I'm walking out it's definitely going to be a show and it's definitely going to be something that the people will want to watch because I’ve got something special planned.”

UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Nascimento took place live from Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri on May 11, 2024. See the final Prelim and Main Card results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass