UFC middleweight Alessio Di Chirico thinks his performance last time out likely saved his job.

“That was incredible – better than my best dreams,” Di Chirico recently told MMA Junkie via translator, after he explained why he declined questions at his post-fight news conference at UFC on ABC 1 earlier this month.

Di Chirico was a big underdog against viral sensation Joaquin Buckley. But when it came time to actually compete, Di Chirico proved the oddsmakers wrong. The Italian fighter flipped the script and knocked out Buckley with a head kick in Round 1.

“I think the high kick landed because of the previous leg kicks,” Di Chirico said. “He was a bit frustrated and probably thought I was going on with those low kicks when I threw to the head. Michele Verginelli, my coach, told me to throw leg kicks so many times during the camp. He was (expletive) right.”

Every win is important, but snapping a three-fight losing streak made this victory extra special for Di Chirico. “Manzo” earned himself the opportunity to fight again inside the UFC cage – something that wasn’t guaranteed going in.

“Yes, I saved my job,” Di Chirico said. “I saved myself and my family from the curse of the loss. I know I would have been depressed for a long time, and then it would have made my family unhappy, too. I will never allow this to happen again. I’m working hard on my fighting and mental skills.”

As elated as he’s felt since the fight, Di Chirico predicted the feeling will soon fade. There are more challenges on the horizon as 2021 rolls on – including one, he hopes, against former rival and 2020 “MMA Junkie Male Fighter of the Year” Kevin Holland (21-5 MMA, 8-2 UFC). When the two fought in June 2019, Holland won via unanimous decision.

“Right now I feel quiet and more balanced than ever,” Di Chirico said. “I feel like I deserved it. I’ve always tried to put my best into every fight. It was the right time for a win like this. I know nothing changed, man. It’s just a week of joy. Now it’s time to move on to what’s next. … I don’t know what’s next, but there’s something I see very clearly: Kevin Holland within the end of 2021.”