Joaquin Buckley aims for ‘viral moment’ in St. Louis homecoming fight at UFC on ESPN 56

UFC on ESPN 56 will mark the first time in almost eight years since Joaquin Buckley’s last fight in his hometown of St. Louis, so you better believe the rising welterweight is looking to, as he said, “turn up” Saturday night at Enterprise Center.

Buckley, No. 11 in the latest official UFC welterweight rankings, meets Nursulton Ruziboev in the UFC on ESPN 56 co-main event. Buckley believes he willed this homecoming into existence by calling for it after he TKO’d Vicente Luque to score the biggest win of his career just six weeks ago.

“That’s just how the universe works. When you speak things out and when you’re unafraid and confident and you actually work toward things, the universe will reward you.” Buckley told reporters at UFC on ESPN 56 media day. “Dana (White), obviously hearing that I wanted to fight in my hometown city and obviously having someone like me be on the card, he only knew that the numbers were gonna go up. I’m glad he took the opportunity by putting me on the card. Now we’re here, let’s go.”

Buckley (18-6 MMA, 8-4 UFC) has been on a roll since he moved down from middleweight to welterweight, winning three in a row, including the finish of Luque that propelled him into the rankings. Buckley is taking a risk against Ruziboev (34-8-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC), a traditional middleweight who is coming down to welterweight.

Thing is, all that really seemed to matter to Buckley is fighting in St. Louis.

“It has nothing to do with the opponent,” Buckley said. “Obviously they had to find somebody that wasn’t even a welterweight fighter to get on there. So, for me, it was just the opportunity to actually be able to fight. With Nursulton, I don’t know if he’s gonna make the weight, but it don’t even matter. I’ve already adjusted my mind set that no matter what he steps from the scale as, as long as I’ve got an opponent, we’re good. I’m feeling to knock this boy out. …

“Right now having the energy of my hometown, having my family out watching me, and it’s been years since they watched me live last time I fought in St. Louis for Bellator back in the day. I feel like now that I get the opportunity to fight in my city, I’ve got to turn up. I’ve got to do the most – what people expect, right? They want that viral moment, and I feel like we’re gonna get that.”

That moment, should it happen, would create quite the scene Saturday night, and Buckley – who owns perhaps the greatest knockout in UFC history – envisions the fight ending in that fashion.

“It will come to me naturally, but I do have a setup,” Buckley said. “I do have something in mind that I want to do and I want to hit him. It all depends on Nursulton and how he comes. Regardless, though, I know that knockout is gonna be there at the end of the day.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 56.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie