MONTREAL – Darren Elkins has heard the question so many times now that he just heads straight to his stock answer.
With four straight UFC wins at featherweight, everyone wants to know, where does that put him in the division?
And, of course, the Indiana native is taking it one fight at a time and only looking at the one in front of him and whomever the UFC wants him to fight after that is fine with him.
Elkins (15-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) on Saturday fights Antonio Carvalho (15-5 MMA, 2-1 UFC) on the preliminary card of UFC 158 at Bell Centre in Montreal, a fight that could have some fairly big ramifications in the featherweight division if Elkins wins and gets to five in a row. His win streak would be shorter than only champion Jose Aldo’s at that point, though Elkins has been quick to admit there are fighters out there such as Ricardo Lamas, with four straight featherweight wins, who might have put together streaks against better names.
But press him just a little bit more, and maybe he’s starting to get it just a little bit. Elkins’ four straight since dropping from lightweight all have been unanimous decisions. And while it’s hard to look at his fights against Steven Siler this past November and his win over Diego Brandao in May and call him a “lay-and-pray” artist, Elkins knows what’s potentially at stake against Carvalho.
Short of saying he needs to blow people’s minds, he needs to basically, well, blow people’s minds. Or at least get right up in their grills and let them know he’s there with a combination of a big performance in Montreal and an increased presence in the spotlight.
“I think a finish is what I need,” Elkins admitted to MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I think it needs to be another entertaining fight or a finish, and that’s something I’m going for. I think each time you get a finish, people notice a little more than just a regular win. A finish is kind of what I need. And I’m really starting to work on this media stuff a little bit more. I wasn’t as into it as I’m getting to be, and I think the thing is I need to get my name out there and let people know who I am.”
Of course, it’s hard to imagine Elkins becoming the next Chael Sonnen overnight. And he’s not alone with his preference just to train, walk into the octagon, go to work, get his hand raised and go home.
In fact, Lamas, a fellow Midwesterner who like Elkins also is an elite-level wrestler, doesn’t do much talking, either. Elkins draws a little influence from his teammate and Duneland Vale Tudo co-head coach Keith Wisniewski, currently a UFC welterweight on the mend from a pair of injuries. Both Elkins and Wisniewski are union workers in their day jobs, Elkins as a pipefitter and Wisniewski an iron worker.
“I think it’s a big Midwest thing around here,” Elkins said of his straight-ahead, no-frills mentality. “It’s a little bit of a wrestler thing, but if you look at a guy like Keith Wisniewski, he’s kind of the same way. He’s not much of a talker and doesn’t hype himself up, and he’s been around forever. A lot of big fighters around here (are like that). I think it’s a Midwest thing where we’re hard workers and we’re not prone to talking a lot of crap. We get in there, we do our job, and that’s kind of the mentality most people have around here.”
Against Carvalho, a former soccer player, Elkins said he’ll be cognizant of his opponent’s kicking game. He believes he has the game plan in place for that, and if the fight hits the canvas again, as it has during the bulk of his current win streak, that’s just fine, too.
Of course, on the ground, he’ll still try to find ways to finish the fight.
“That’s something I keep on getting better at, and I feel like I can grapple with anybody – especially on top,” he said. “My top game is stifling and I throw a lot of punches from there and have great passes. It’s not like the guys I’ve grappled with have killed me or anything. My grappling skills are getting better and better, and I’m not afraid to use those on anybody.”
So what happens with five wins in a row? Aldo has the title tied up until he defends it in August against Anthony Pettis, who recently threw a little wrench into the featherweight works by calling out the champ and dropping down from his top contender spot at lightweight.
That’s OK with Elkins. Believe it or not, he’s on board with the fight.
“Is it fair? Probably not to some people,” he said. “But one thing that we know is we’re in the entertainment business and that’s a big-draw fight – so I guess it does make sense.”
But with five in a row, he’s reasonably certain he’ll have to get at least six if he’s thinking at all about a title shot down the road.
“I feel like a win this Saturday puts me in a great position,” Elkins said. “I definitely feel like if I get five in a row, they’re definitely going to have to give me a big fight. I’m not saying this isn’t a big fight – this guy’s tough. He doesn’t have as big of a win streak as me, but he’s fought some tough opponents. I’m not looking past him.”
And, of course, the talk comes right back to finishes vs. decisions. Elkins is quick to reiterate he knows how the game is played. He knows what fans – and matchmakers – are looking for. And he’ll do his best to oblige, even though trying for that his most recent four fights didn’t happen, leaving him with one of the most modest contender win streaks in the UFC – or just a slow and steady climb to contendership.
“A finish is what I’m going for,” he said. “Knockout, TKO, submission – that’s what I’m going for. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But I’m going in there and I’m going for a finish.”
For more on UFC 158, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.