Darren Elkins achieved the improbable the last time he was inside the Octagon. He was getting bludgeoned by Mirsad Bektic at UFC 209 in Las Vegas in March and was nearly stopped numerous times. A bloody heap with a face as lumpy and swollen as a winter squash, Elkins somehow rallied to knock Bektic out in the third.
It was magical stuff.
Elkins didn’t need anywhere near those level of dramatics on Saturday in the co-featured bout of UFC on Fox 25 in Long Island, N.Y., but that doesn’t mean his triumph over Dennis Bermudez was easy. Elkins fought tooth and nail against Bermudez and did just enough inside the cage to edge his foe via split decision in what he deemed as his greatest feat in his career thus far.
“I’d say this is the biggest win [of my career],” Elkins told the assembled media at the post-fight press conference. “[Bermudez] was a top-10 guy, this was a co-main event and I’m coming off four straight wins. I’ve been kind of stuck here in this position before but I couldn’t be happier.
“This was the fight I was looking for,” the Duneland Vale Tudo fighter added. “There was a lot of striking mixed in with grappling. These are the fights I succeed in. It’s not the prettiest stuff sometimes but I make it work and I make it work good.”
The Indiana resident said he relished the notion of fighting in his opponent’s backyard. The hostile crowd didn’t distract him in the least, he said, and added that those types of environments are what make him such a dangerous fighter once the horn sounds.
“You come out there, you get booed,” he said. “They weren’t going to cheer for me. There’s not going to be that positive energy but I feed off that negativity, too. I’m always the underdog, I'm the spoiler. There's less pressure on me and I just had to focus on performing, that's it.”
Bermudez landed several clean strikes in the contest, and “The Damage” said he felt his opponent’s power during their fight. But while Bermudez had the slight upper hand at a distance, Elkins worked a terrific clinch game and controlled the action when the featherweights weren’t going toe-to-toe. But even though he felt that he did more than enough to earn the judges’ favor, he said he was a bit uneasy while Bruce Buffer read the official scores.
“You’re always gasping for air when they say ‘split decision,’” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen but I thought for that I won the first two rounds. When they read the scorecards, I was nervous.”
But now that Elkins has won five in a row inside the Octagon, he stated that he only wants to fight the best there is at 145 pounds. Staying idle is not an option.
“I don’t want to stand by,” he stated. “There’s a lot of guys I want (to fight). [Chan Sung Jung], Cub Swanson… there are a lot of guys out there. I want a title shot (eventually) but I don’t think I deserve it yet. But I want a top 5 guy, top 6 guy for sure. I think I deserve it.”