Heading into 2017, the whole lot was aligned for Mirsad Bektic to be one of many breakout younger skills within the UFC.
Sporting an ideal eleven-zero report with 4 straight victories contained in the Octagon, every one higher than the final, the Bosnian-born, Nebraska-raised featherweight was dwelling as much as his superior billing as a future contender and somebody who had the potential to problem for championship gold sooner or later in his profession.
After coming back from an 18-month hiatus and rolling by means of Russell Doane, the unbeaten featherweight upstart was handed a step up in competitors when he was paired with veteran grappler Darren Elkins on the preliminary portion of the UFC 209 battle card. It was the sort of matchup each up-and-comer faces earlier than they ascend to the subsequent degree of their division — a litmus check towards a longtime fighter who has the savvy and preventing spirit to provide the promising expertise probably the most troublesome battle of their careers.
By way of the first two rounds, Bektic was passing with flying colours.
Within the first, he opened up with swift, clear boxing earlier than taking Elkins down and mauling him on the canvas, leaving him coated in crimson as he trudged again to his nook down 10-eight on the scorecards. Whereas the center stanza wasn’t as dramatically one-sided because the opener, Bektic once more managed the motion, leaving himself 5 minutes away from a twelfth consecutive victory. Bektic was heading in the direction of the sort of lopsided victory that might pressure everybody to face up and take discover.
Because the third obtained underway, Bektic nonetheless maintained his edge on the ft, snapping Elkins’ head again with a clear proper hand out of the gate. Because the seconds ticked off the clock, the younger featherweight began to hunt for takedowns and even managed to briefly put Elkins on the mat, however the human crash check dummy that was leaking blood from the hellacious minimize above his proper eye battled to his ft and reversed the place.
When Bektic tried to face, Elkins related with a proper hand to the temple. He was out earlier than the comply with-up kick grazed the aspect of his physique as he tumbled to the ground, touchdown in what a place that may solely be described as a somersault gone horribly awry.
Lower than two minutes away from sure victory, every little thing went sideways. Bektic’s unblemished report was a factor of the previous.
Ten months later, he’s able to return.
“I sort of went loopy proper after the struggle — coaching, (questioning), ‘Why did I lose?’ I had so many questions,” Stated Bektic, talking with Sporting Information on Wednesday morning. “I used to be actually operating myself down with a lot coaching and having so many various opinions (coming in) about why I misplaced, this and that.
“So I took a step again and reassessed.”
Along with making an attempt to determine what went flawed and the areas he wanted to enhance in his recreation, Bektic additionally packed his bag and began logging some frequent flyer miles as he bounced round from health club to fitness center.
He went house to Nebraska and obtained in a while on the wrestling mats with 4-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs. He obtained rounds in with undefeated mild welterweight champ Terrence “Bud” Crawford in Colorado. He went to New York Metropolis, hitting the mats on the Renzo Gracie Academy with professor John Danaher and crossed the border into Quebec for somewhat time on the Tristar Fitness center in Montreal.
After a pair weeks again at American Prime Group in South Florida, Bektic packed his luggage and headed north, shifting into the dorms at Tristar in an effort to start his first coaching camp on the elite Canadian outpost.
“It has every thing so far as MMA and most significantly, it has Firas (Zahabi),” he stated of his determination to relocate to Montreal and work alongside the famed head coach on the Ferrier Road battle manufacturing unit. “He’s made world champions earlier than and I clicked with him immediately.
“He’s a coach’s model of myself as an athlete,” Joked Bektic, a self-described perfectionist with an insatiable thirst for information. “He’s all the time there, he’s open-minded, he’s very goal, simply as I’m and I actually loved what he needed to do with my recreation. Once I went there the first time, I requested him what he want to see, how he would enhance me and the issues he stated actually spoke to me.”
Getting out and coaching in several locales and finally setting on Tristar as his new house base additionally allowed Bektic to place his efficiency final March into perspective and be capable of begin shifting ahead once more, starting together with his matchup towards Godofredo Pepey this weekend in Charlotte.
Nobody ever needs to lose and whereas setbacks typically supply extra studying alternatives and possibilities to develop as a fighter than could be present in any victory, sifting via the frustration and torment of taking an “L” to seek out the silver lining is usually a difficult course of. Having to take action for the first time as a professional solely complicates issues extra and when that preliminary loss comes the best way it did — lower than two minutes previous to the ultimate bell and a unanimous determination verdict in your favor — ups the diploma of problem much more.
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It wasn’t a simple course of for Bektic, whose private expectations and perfectionist mindset outpaced even the lofty reward of scouts and observers who ranked him as one of many prime prospects within the sport previous to his UFC arrival and projected him as a future contender after he matriculated to the Octagon. He ultimately received there and now he’s able to put that loss behind him.
“The constructive was that it helped me get to the place I’m at now mentally,” stated Bektic. “I’m on the sort of health club that I’ve all the time dreamed about being at and I’ve the coach that I’ve all the time dreamed about having. I’m enhancing expertise that I actually type of downplayed.
“I used to be limiting myself in a variety of areas so far as the general martial arts, however I can put issues collectively now. I can do backflips if I would like. I can do some Showtime Pettis kicks.
“There are plenty of positives that got here from that battle.”
The truth that Elkins has continued profitable since their assembly in Las Vegas has helped ease the frustration and bolstered Bektic’s confidence much more heading into this weekend’s matchup with Pepey.
“He’s a prime man and it undoubtedly let’s me know the place I’m at; that I’m the actual deal too,” he stated of Elkins, who has since picked up a cut up determination win over Dennis Bermudez and a second-spherical submission victory over Michael Johnson two weeks in the past, operating his profitable streak to 6.
“I made a mistake, however it’s OK. Errors occur and I’ll get my shot once more. I’ll overcome it and be alright,” added Bektic. “I’m very excited to be again on an ideal card. I’m very excited to be preventing an awesome opponent and excited to showcase my expertise.
“I’m very relaxed, I’m having enjoyable with it and I’m not fascinated by a specific end result. I’m going to go on the market and carry out like I’ve been throughout coaching camp and I consider that shall be sufficient to safe loads of issues.”
E. Spencer Kyte covers combined martial arts for Sporting Information. Comply with him on Twitter: @spencerkyte.