SAN JOSE, Calif. – Darren Elkins isn’t the type to win a fight and then start calling out what he wants. But with one more win, maybe that might change just a little.
Elkins (16-2 MMA, 6-1 UFC) on Saturday has the biggest test of his MMA career when he meets Chad Mendes (13-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) at UFC on FOX 7. The Indiana native and resident will be going after his sixth straight win at featherweight, and he does it on short notice.
It’s a big fight, and Elkins knows it. So with a win, he just might have to speak up a little about what he thinks should be next.
“I usually take it as it comes,” Elkins told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “But I think it’s one of those fights I’d push more for the title shot. I haven’t asked for anything. But I took this fight on short notice and, to be honest, how many guys wanted to come in here and fight Chad Mendes on short notice? There weren’t many guys stepping up. I did, and I’ve got this win streak, and I feel like that’s why I deserve the shot. I’m trying to get better each fight and show that I’m getting better each fight.”
After dropping from lightweight, Elkins put together four straight unanimous decision wins, arguably each a little bit more impressive than the one before it. He beat Michihiro Omigawa, Tiequan Zhang, “TUF” winner Diego Brandao and Steven Siler in that stretch.
But it was a stoppage he said he was hoping for against Antonio Carvalho. And though there were some calls that it came too early at UFC 158 five weeks ago, he still did the work to have the ref step in, anyway, and had the stoppage not come then, he was in good position to inflict even more damage seconds later.
A win over Mendes, who fought for the title just 15 months ago, though, would elevate Elkins’ status immensely – and it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to ask to be next in line for a shot at the 145-pound title. That belt, held by Jose Aldo, gets put on the line in August against Anthony Pettis. In July, another pair of contenders square off when Ricardo Lamas meets “The Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung, at UFC 162. And Elkins believes a win over Mendes on Saturday might have the UFC thinking about that potential matchup, as well.
“The title fight’s not till August, and that’s a lot of time in between,” he said. “So maybe they’d have us fight each other to get it. Maybe they don’t. It’s going to be an interesting thing to see. But first, I have to focus on this.”
Focusing on Mendes on such short notice has forced him to look at his Team Alpha Male opponent’s style. They both come from strong wrestling backgrounds, and oftentimes that style matchup can turn into a standup battle.
But Elkins thinks this one might be all over the place.
“We both like mixing it up – I’m getting more confident with my hands, and he’s doing the same thing,” he said. “We both come from wrestling backgrounds, and I think it’s going to be that type of fight. We’ll both try for takedowns, we’ll both be striking. I think it’s going to be a real fast-paced fight. … I still think he’s going to try to wrestle me. Even with Yahya, he wanted to stand, but he still took him down. It’ll be a lot of standing and banging, but I think we’ll both push our wrestling.”
As for where a win over Mendes would put him, Elkins thinks that one’s pretty obvious, and it jibes with the goal he set long ago.
“I think this is a breakout opportunity,” he said. “I want to fight for the championship. That’s my ultimate goal. When I got into this sport, that’s what I wanted to do. This is the type of fight that shoots me up that ladder. He’s only lost to Jose Aldo. He had his shot at the championship. You beat a guy like that, that puts me right in that position. That puts me at six wins in a row, too, and I’m the only guy that would have that (at featherweight).
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