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Isaac Dulgarian poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on August 10, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Isaac Dulgarian Knows How To Flip The Switch

UFC Debutant Isaac Dulgarian Knows He Belongs In The UFC And Is Eager To Prove It At UFC Fight Night: Luque vs Dos Anjos

You don’t find too many featherweights standing at 6-foot-4, but that’s exactly what Isaac Dulgarian found when he was matched up with TeeJay Britton in February of 2022.

“At weigh-ins I realized how tall he was, but then when we were in the cage and we both had our shirts off, and I was like, oh my goodness, this dude is going to be hard to hit,” laughs Dulgarian, who didn’t just have to keep his unbeaten record intact; he had to impress UFC President Dana White and the Lookin’ for a Fight crew in Independence, Missouri. “And I just remember I threw an overhand at him about as high as I could and it went right under his chin. (Laughs) He didn't even move.”

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It was a recipe for disaster, because while Dulgarian was the better mixed martial artist, 6-foot-4 against 5-foot-7 takes all bets off the table. But “The Midwest Choppa” found a way, and in just 73 seconds, he scored a knockout win…and a UFC contract…proving that talent and a high Fight IQ can get around physical disadvantages, the likes of which Dulgarian probably won’t ever see again.

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“It showed me that I can compete with anyone, no matter how big they are,” said Dulgarian, now 5-0 with five finishes. “If we weigh the same weight that day, then it's going to be a competitive fight. Either way, I'm not going to back down from anybody. If you weighed in at 145 pounds, we're the same size in my eyes, so I just got to do my job.”

That approach has kept him perfect as a pro and put him on the UFC roster. What hasn’t been perfect is getting the 27-year-old into the Octagon, as a January bout with Dan Argueta was scrapped due to a knee injury, making it a year-and-a-half since the Britton bout.

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“It's just been frustrating, because I'm looking to move my career forward and I feel like I've just been stagnant and almost forgot about,” he said. “It was a lot to overcome. I had a torn LCL in two places and then they told me eight weeks off. I took the eight weeks, got cleared, came back, and then two weeks into training I tore it again. So it was just a mess. But I did everything I could, and now everything's good. I'm healthy, strong, and I've had no issues since, so I'm excited for my time.”

Isaac Dulgarian poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on August 10, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Isaac Dulgarian poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on August 10, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

That time is rapidly approaching, as he will make his UFC bout on Saturday against fellow featherweight prospect Francis Marshall. It’s the type of high-stakes matchup you rarely see between up and comers in boxing, simply because few want to risk their glossy records this soon. But Dulgarian and Marshall had no issues signing on the dotted line, and the fans will be the winners when the Octagon door shuts, and the pair get down to business.

“I think it's a tougher fight than my other one,” said Dulgarian. “But I think it's a good one. I didn't have any ifs, ands, or buts about taking it. I watched the film on him and once I saw that he has a grappling base and kind of a boxer style without any other real weapons, I think that's a good fight for me and it's a good intro for me to get into the UFC and make a name for myself.”

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The confidence is evident, but that comes from never losing as an amateur or professional. I ask Dulgarian when he lost at anything.

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“Man, my girl beat me at arm wrestling once,” he laughs. “That one's embarrassing for me and I was actually trying, but she's strong.”

But are they still together?

“Oh yeah.”

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All kidding aside, though, there’s got to be something to stepping in there and knowing that no one has ever had your number. 

“The flip switches,” said Dulgarian. “I'm a cool guy outside of fighting, but when it comes to competing in one-on-one sports, there's a flip that switches in me. I just can't let the other guy win, and I think we'll see that on August 12th. It's going to be a good fight, but I think that just my presence, and the fact that I've been competing since I was eight years old, so almost 19 years now, it makes me very familiar with competing against another human.”

And winning. Saturday’s an opportunity to get his first in a long time, and he can’t wait.

“I’ve had plenty of time watching these guys, and I'm just ready for my time,” Dulgarian said. “I've been waiting so long, and I know I belong in the UFC. I have a tough kid standing in front of me and I hope that I can do my job the way it's supposed to be done, put on a show, and then hopefully I get that hype behind me that I feel like I've earned throughout just my entire time competing.”

UFC Fight Night: Luque vs Dos Anjos took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on August 12, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass