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Mirsad Bektic explains how loss to Darren Elkins motivated move to Tristar

Mirsad Bektic defeated Ricardo Lamas at UFC 225.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The only loss of Mirsad Bektic’s MMA career is one of the best things that has ever happened to him.

When Bektic met Darren Elkins at UFC 209, for 12 minutes the bout played out exactly how the majority of people had imagined, with the Bosnian prospect having his way with “The Damage” in every facet of the game. Yet, with less than two minutes left on the clock, Elkins clipped Bektic with an errant right hand that stopped him in his tracks.

The infamous win has become a fabled tale for perseverance and never giving up on oneself. Although both men likely left a piece of themselves in the Octagon that night in Sin City, Bektic firmly believes that he took even more away from it — including a change of scenery.

“The fight with Elkins made me better in so many ways, even as a human being,” Bektic told MMA Fighting.

“As a fighter, it gave me a completely different experience. Up until that point, I hadn’t really met an opponent that could drag me into the trenches. Elkins is a serious dude and he’s beaten a whole load of good guys. By being in there with him, it’s almost like I took some of that experience from him and applied it to myself.

“If that loss hadn’t happened, I doubt I would have moved out to Tristar. I’m just really grateful for that experience.”

Bektic had already been with American Top Team for six years by the time he met Elkins. He acknowledged that it took a lot of courage for him to reveal his decision to the coaches that had led him to become one of the most prosperous talents in MMA.

“Leaving American Top Team was no easy task at all for me. It’s not like I just arrived in Canada one day. ATT did a lot for me. When I was 20 years old, they gave me an opportunity to train full-time and they bought me food too while I was in that five-year contract with them. I was incredibly loyal to them, but it was just one of those things where it wasn’t working for me. It was very hard thing to do and it took a lot of balls to walk away from the team.”

Following the loss, the featherweight visited teams all over the U.S. in a quest to find out why he came up short at UFC 209.

“It took me a long time to finally make the move. I just went around everywhere training with lots of different people. I trained with Jordan Burroughs, Terrence Crawford, I went out to Tristar, I went out to John Danaher’s and I was with Duane Ludwig in Colorado. It wasn’t like I was trying to find my new gym when I did that. These were just things that I really wanted to do for a long time, so after that loss I went and did it,” he said.

“Honestly, I wanted to find answers to why I lost. There was a simple answer at the end of that for me. The Elkins fight was feedback for me, it was a blueprint for a lot of things. It took me a while to get over that, but now that I have I’m just going to keep going forward.”

Before he made the move to Canada, Bektic feared what some of his former teammates would attribute the move to, but eventually he came to the conclusion that his own feelings on the issue must take precedent.

“For a long time, I was thinking about how certain people would react and what they would think of me if I did leave, but after a while, I was able to break it down for myself. It doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks because only I know where I was at and the position that I was in. The feeling I had was, if I don’t act upon this feeling, there’s a good chance that my career could go a different way.”

After one training session with Firas Zahabi, Bektic knew Montreal was the place for him.

“I was very impressed with Firas from our very first session. I was impressed with what he wanted to do with me, as an athlete and for my career — it really intrigued me. Out of all the people I talked to, he seemed to have the best direction for me. It was beautiful. I believed in him and now I believe in myself more than ever,” he explained. “That being said, there’s still a lot to learn. Top-10 competition is a lot different than top-15, so it’s going to require a lot from me, but I’m up for it.”

The results since his move speak for themselves.

A brutal body shot from Bektic stopped Godofredo Pepey in the first round of their meeting at UFC on FOX 27. If the embrace Bektic shared with Zahabi following the Pepey win wasn’t enough to convince you that the Bosnian had made a full transition to the powerhouse Canadian team, his victory over former title contender Ricardo Lamas at UFC 225 certainly should have.

Although he still hasn’t ventured outside of chat-up lines as he endeavors to grasp the French language, Bektic is certainly enjoying his time in his new home away from home.

“It’s more suited to me. I love the people here. Outside of the gym, there’s a lot of diversity here and that’s something that really appeals to me too. The vibe in the gym is amazing. There’s just so much experience, so much knowledge and a whole lot of feedback. It’s a very humbling place,” he said.

“I just took a class today after being away for a week and it’s always the same. You always learn something every time you’re on the mats. I feel like I always take something away and I want more of it, it’s awesome.”

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