How one UFC fighter started his own cooking show to gain exposure

This is something we might expect from Anthony Bourdain, a chef, author, TV personality and noted mixed martial arts fan.

But there on his own YouTube channel is UFC featherweight contender Dennis Bermudez, stealing a page from Bourdain’s cookbook, er, playbook and doing his own cooking show.

Now, this isn’t a traditional cooking show by any means, but Bermudez has taken his love of cooking and his need to eat clean and turned it into a successful, irreverent and sometimes helpful YouTube channel.

Bermudez, who fights “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in the main event of a UFC Fight Night card on Saturday in Houston the night before Super Bowl 51, has his own channel, “Menace Tube,” that offers much of the familiar fighter blog material.

It’s got his fight camp diaries and training tips and news and information on his upcoming fights. But he also has a show, “Cooking with the Menace,” that he’s becoming known for. Since he’s gotten to Houston, a local restaurant owner has been badgering Bermudez to do an episode of the show at his place.

He’s brought on former world champion boxer Chris Algieri, who is his nutritionist, to discuss making healthy smoothies. He has done his take on “Detox Chicken Soup,” pizza, steak fajitas and what to eat before a fight.

Through it all, he jokes around – his episode on making his chicken soup opens with a closed refrigerator, and when the door is open, there is Bermudez sitting on the bottom – and gives a decidedly different twist on the traditional cooking show.

It started as a one-off joke, but with the encouragement of the UFC, it became more prominent and a regular feature.

“I was messing around and did it and somehow, some of the members of the UFC social team saw it and they called me and said, ‘That was some of the funniest stuff we’ve ever seen,’ ” Bermudez said. “They told me to do it again.”

So, combined with his need to eat healthy, he has put together the cooking channel within his already existing YouTube site and gotten the best of both worlds. He’s gained needed exposure for his fight career while having fun cooking for himself.

The featherweight division is so deep with talent that it takes something special to separate one’s self from the pack. A win over the “Zombie,” who has been out of action for three-and-a-half years fulfilling military duties in South Korea, would be significant.

Jung’s last fight was a title bout against Jose Aldo at UFC 163 on Aug. 3, 2013, in Rio de Janeiro.

He was at the time one of the sport’s most exciting fighters, and while it’s hard to miss more than 40 months and be the same, Bermudez is expecting a significant challenge on Saturday.

“I can’t really say to myself, ‘Oh, he’s going to be worse because he hasn’t fought in a while,’ ” Bermudez said. “If I know one thing for sure, it’s that he’s going to be prepared and ready to fight, so I have to be prepared for a better version of him than there has ever been.”

A win over Jung would be an eye-opener, which has to help with all of the confusion going on. Former champion Conor McGregor knocked out Aldo at UFC 194, and though he never defended the belt, he sucked the oxygen out of the division by taking just about all of the attention away from the contenders.

McGregor went on to win the lightweight title and no longer holds the featherweight belt, but the title situation hasn’t clarified itself. There are now two champions, with Aldo holding the regular belt and Max Holloway the interim belt.

But with Aldo making noises like he may not fight at featherweight – or ever again – Bermudez simply looks at Holloway as the champion and the guy to beat in the division.

Dennis Bermudez
When he’s not fighting in the UFC, Dennis Bermudez spends his time cooking on YouTube. (Getty Images)

Bermudez is on a two-fight win streak and will have to put together several more before he gets a shot at the belt, so the division will likely clarify itself.

But he said that even if he wins the interim belt someday, he won’t view it as anything less than he would have had he beaten McGregor.

“Beating McGregor makes you famous,” Bermudez said. “Beating a world champion makes you a champion. It’s all about how you walk the walk while you have it. That’s what will define you as a champion. The bottom line is, you can only fight who they put in front of you and if they say it’s for a title, then it’s for a title.

“To me, the [interim titles] are like you’re on deck, I guess. And that puts you in position to do a lot of big things.”

He’s not, though, one to get ahead of himself. He has arguably the most high-profile fight of his career only days away, and fighting on the night before the Super Bowl against a popular opponent like Jung can only help to raise his profile.

He got to attend Super Bowl media day and asked Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, a minority UFC owner, a question, so he’s getting around.

Despite all the side gigs, he knows there is only one thing that matters.

“We’re in a sport where the competition is intense and you need to win to stay in the race,” he said. “And so I’m not looking ahead to anything, because I need to be fully focused on this one fight. I want to be at my best [on Saturday] and that will make a difference for me.”