UFC Fight Night in Atlantic City saw contenders emerge and a legend return

Philly-based Uzbekistan fighter Nursulton Ruziboev won via first-round knockout. Former champ Chris Weidman also got a victory.

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Nursulton Ruziboev

Nursulton Ruziboev celebrated on top of the cage following his victory at UFC Fight Night: Blanchfield vs. Fiorot on March 30, 2024. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

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UFC Fight Night in Atlantic City brought thousands of fans to Boardwalk Hall on Saturday to witness a legend continue his legacy and homecomings for various fighters.

For fighter Nursulton Ruziboev, who hails from Uzbekistan but lives and trains in Philadelphia, it was a showcase of who could be the next big thing in the middleweight division. Ruziboev won by technical knockout in the first round, notching his 34th career victory.

Speaking through a translator, he said training at Marquez MMA in Philadelphia’s Frankford section has taken him to the next level.

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“I feel as if I was raised in this gym,” Ruziboev said. ”As if I came here as a kid because they taught me so much. They took me under their wing.”

Ruziboev said the number of Uzbeks living in New Jersey and Philadelphia was one of the reasons he was drawn to the area.

“When I walk around Philadelphia, it’s as if I’m walking around Uzbekistan,” he said. “It’s like I’m home. There’s such a huge population of Uzbekis here, and so for me, it’s like home. And this gym — I will never leave the gym because this gym is like being at home.”

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Former UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman won via unanimous decision via an accidental eye poke in what was originally ruled a technical knockout. This broke a two-fight losing streak that sent the fans into a joyous frenzy.

Weidman’s career started in Atlantic City back in 2009, and during a post-fight interview, he said it was great to get a win in a historic building.

“To be able to come in here and put on a show and get that type of love from the people, get Atlantic City booming,” Weidman said. “Just to come out here and give some love to this city, you know, it’s really cool.”

Weidman broke his leg during a fight three years ago, and while he’s said he is considering retirement, it’s safe to say he’s got his legs back underneath him.

“I’m still progressing and evolving,” Weidman said in the octagon. “You can do anything you want to do… Eff everybody who frigging doesn’t believe in you. Surround yourself with good people and work your damn ass off, you can do anything you want in this world.”

Joaquin Buckley emerged as a contender in the welterweight division after scoring a technical knockout victory over No. 11-ranked Vicente Luque in the second round. The St. Louis native proudly reps his city everywhere he goes, but after Saturday’s victory, Atlantic City will always have a special place in his heart.

“We definitely got the vibes here in New Jersey,” Buckley said. “So I’d definitely love to come back to Atlantic City and put on again.”

Two fighters from the Philadelphia area, featherweight Bill Algeo and middleweight Andre Petroski, both had homecoming fights in Atlantic City

On the main card, Algeo was defeated in the first round by technical knockout, making his win/loss record 18-8. In the prelims, Petroski also lost by technical knockout in round two after he collided head-first into his opponent’s hip while attempting a takedown. Petroski’s record now stands at 10 wins and four losses.

The Fight of the Night bonus went to Anton Turkalj versus Ibo Aslan, and Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Nate Landwehr and Dennis Buzukja.

The event was sold out with 12,198 people in attendance with a gate of more than $2 million, according to the UFC.

On Saturday, the UFC will be back in Las Vegas for another Fight Night featuring middleweight contenders Brendan Allen and Chris Curtis.

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