Daily Star


Sparkling Joaquin the toast of St Louis


JOAQUIN BUCKLEY called his shot for St Louis and ended up hitting the biggest home run of his career in his hometown.

The rising welterweig­ht star even went as far as claiming a perfect hattrick at UFC on ESPN 56 – getting his hand raised against a dangerous opponent in Nursulton Ruziboev, calling out the biggest MMA superstar in Conor McGregor and celebratin­g it all with a childhood hero, and 14-time WWE champion, in Randy Orton.

Having fought on March 30, defeating Vicente Luque, ‘New Mansa’ pleaded with UFC officials for a quick turnaround and a showcase spot on last weekend’s card in his home city.

Buckley, who has won his last four fights, more than justified the company’s faith in him as he beat the experience­d Ruziboev by unanimous decision in the co-main to wow the record crowd at the Enterprise Centre.

He said: “I went out there and showed my heart, took chances. I believe with that win and the crowd coming out and cheering me on, the UFC have got to come back to St Louis.

“I couldn’t hear my corner coaching me because of the roar of the crowd. And because I couldn’t hear my coaches, I used the energy of the crowd to make sure I kept pushing and putting on a performanc­e. St Louis got me the win.

“It means a lot because we have someone to represent the city in a positive way. I have grown up here, born and raised here, and I am an image that kids can see that you can follow your dreams and you can do the things you always wanted to do.”

With McGregor set to return to the octagon for the first time since 2021 against Michael Chandler at UFC 303 on June 29, Buckley called out the Irishman, even though his hopes of a ‘Notorious’ payday are slim.

He added: “In order to be the king, you have to behead the king. So that’s my biggest goal. But it ain’t nothing but love and respect for Conor McGregor. He is the biggest name in the game and if I can say his name to promote myself, I am going to do it.

“Why not take chances, right? If Chandler doesn’t show up for the fight, guess what? This man will be ready.”

After getting his hand raised, Buckley saw fellow St Louis star Orton in the crowd and embraced the profession­al wrestling legend, saying: “I have been watching Randy Orton since I was a young buck. I just couldn’t hold in my composure. I am pleased he got to see my performanc­e, watch me for the first time, and I am glad I was able to put on a performanc­e like that.”

 ?? ?? ■ HOME ADVANTAGE: Joaquin Buckley is all over Nursulton Ruziboev in St Louis
■ HOME ADVANTAGE: Joaquin Buckley is all over Nursulton Ruziboev in St Louis

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