5 Things You Might Not Know About Ante Delija

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Ante Delija finds himself one step away from a seven-figure payday.

The 32-year-old Croatian will toe the line against Matheus Scheffel when their heavyweight final serves as a featured attraction for the 2022 Professional Fighters League Championships on Friday at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York. A $1 million prize awaits the victor. Delija carries a three-fight winning streak—a run of success that includes a technical knockout of Scheffel—into the match. He last appeared at PFL 8, where he buried Renan Ferreira with first-round punches in their Aug. 13 semifinal.

As Delija approaches his winner-take-all confrontation with Scheffel, here are five things you might not know about him:

1. Early returns were promising.

Delija made his professional mixed martial arts debut at the age of 20 when he struck Sasa Lazic into submission in the first round of their Jan. 22, 2011 pairing under the Herus Fight banner. He went on to win his first eight bouts, establishing himself as one of the more intriguing prospects on the European regional circuit.

2. Combat sports royalty oversaw his development.

“Walking Trouble” trains under Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic—a man universally regarded as one of the Top 10 heavyweights of all-time—in his native Croatia. Filipovic, now 48, completed his remarkable career with a 38-11-2 record, having won the 2006 Pride Fighting Championships Openweight Grand Prix, the 2012 K-1 World Grand Prix and the 2016 Rizin Fighting Federation Openweight Grand Prix.

3. His offensive skills are undeniably potent.

Delija has delivered 16 of his 22 pro victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission—12 of them inside one round—for a stoppage rate of 73%. He secured his fastest finish to date at a Noc Gladijatora show on April 23, 2011, as he put away Erni Strmonja in just 38 seconds.

4. Physical adversity failed to deter him.

The Dubrovnik, Croatia, native suffered a horrifying injury in failed bid to capture the M-1 Global heavyweight crown against Marcin Tybura in September 2015. Delija broke both bones in his lower leg when “Tybur” checked one of his kicks in the first round of their M-1 Challenge 61 main event. Nearly three years passed before he fought again. He owns an 8-2 record since he returned.

5. He altered his plans in response to fine print.

A contract dispute kept Delija out of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He was scheduled to make his Octagon debut opposite Ciryl Gane at UFC Fight Night 180 on Oct. 17, 2020 but the plug was pulled because his contract with the Professional Fighters League had not yet been terminated.
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