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A general view inside UFC APEX prior to Dana White's Contender Series season 5, week 9 on October 26, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Dana White's Contender Series

Ray Longo Looking To Bring Another Prospect To The UFC

Despite already coaching three students to UFC gold in his illustrious coaching career, legendary Long Island Coach Ray Longo is showing no signs of slowing down. His latest project: featherweight prospect Dennis Buzukja.

Buzukja, a 7-2 fighter riding a three-fight winning streak, will be fighting on the opening week of Dana White’s Contender Series on July 26, and is looking to join Serra-Longo teammates Aljamain Sterling, Al Iaquinta, Merab Dvalishvili, Chris Weidman, and others in the UFC.

“Dennis has great hands, his boxing’s on point, he has great timing. Just a really well-rounded kid,” Longo said. “I think you’re going to see a great fight; I’m predicting a huge win for him.”

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The fight on the 26th will mark Buzukja’s second career Contender Series appearance after he lost a decision on the show to Melsik Baghdasaryan in September 2020, but Longo believes this may actually be a blessing in disguise.

“At the time he was still recovering from COVID, and I didn’t really want him to take the fight,” Longo said. “But now that he’s been there before, I think that he’s ready. He’s got another year or two of experience, he’s had a couple of good fights in between, so I think it’s just a perfect time for him.”

Dennis Buzukja vs Kaleio Romero Preview | DWCS Season 6 Week 1
Dennis Buzukja vs Kaleio Romero Preview | DWCS Season 6 Week 1
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Buzukja won’t just have one Long Island MMA legend cornering him, as current UFC bantamweight champion and fellow Serra-Longo student Aljamain Sterling will also be in Buzukja’s corner. As a veteran cornerman, Longo could not be prouder of the support his students show each other.

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“I corner a lot of the up-and-coming guys with Aljo. He’s a great cornerman, a great instructor, and a great asset to the school,” said Longo. “I always say my favorite corners are me, Matt, and Aljo, or me, Matt, and Iaquinta. Whenever we get that combination, good things happen.”

On top of a groundswell of support from his home gym in Long Island, Buzukja also brings a passionate group of Albanian fight fans who are chomping at the bit to see one of their own in the UFC, making him one of the biggest ticket sellers Longo has ever seen at the regional level.

RELATED: Dennis Buzukja Aims To Be New York’s Next Great UFC Fighter | Aljamain Sterling Takes Role Of Mentor Ahead Of Dennis Buzukja’s DWCS Fight

“What a strong community the Albanians are,” Longo said. “I don’t think the Albanians have many people representing them right now in MMA. They support each other like nobody else; it’s crazy to see.”

Longo will be cornering three fighters in the Contender Series this summer, and on top of having multiple fighters already fighting in the UFC, the Long Island gym has a chance to further increase its already substantial footprint inside the Octagon.

Legendary trainer Ray Longo stands on stage as his longtime friend and student Matt Serra speaks after being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame during the UFC Hall of Fame Class of 2018 Induction Ceremony inside The Pearl concert theater at Palms Casino Resort on July 5, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

Legendary trainer Ray Longo stands on stage as his longtime friend and student Matt Serra speaks after being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame during the UFC Hall of Fame Class of 2018 Induction Ceremony inside The Pearl concert theater at Palms Casino Resort on July 5, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)


“Some of this stuff is surreal to me because my goal was never to have as many guys in the UFC as I could,” Longo said. “The good feeling for me is to help guys accomplish their goals and their dreams and be a part of it. We never anticipated having this many guys.”

At 64 years old, and with over 30 years of his life dedicated to coaching Long Island mixed martial artists, Longo is as passionate as ever. 

“All of these fights for these guys are like championship fights; that’s what I like about the UFC. Every fight is huge, and I love that intensity, I love the way it makes me feel, and I love being a part of it,” Longo said. “The travel gets a little crazy, but the fighting, and the cornering, and the training I could do until I’m dead.”