Tim Elliott nearly quit mixed martial arts only a few lackluster moments after his professional career began.
Frankly, no one would have blamed him.
The octagonal cage was uncomfortable and foreign to Elliott, who felt out of place. With only a wrestling background to his credit, he lacked the necessary striking skills to unleash punishment on an opponent.
Through three matches, he was winless with one draw.
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“I think the worst part of it was my (then) girlfriend was an MMA fighter,” said Elliott, a Wichita native. “And she was 4-0.”
How distant that memory must feel now.
During the last two years, Elliott has reeled off eight straight victories, including one against legend Jens Pulver, and earned the chance to fight on MMA’s biggest stage tonight — the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
Elliott will make his UFC debut against John Dodson in a 125-pound match on FUEL TV as part of a six-bout preliminary lineup to UFC on Fox. Coverage of the event from East Rutherford, N.J., begins at 4 p.m. today on FUEL.
“This is where you want to be,” Elliott said in a phone interview from East Rutherford. “You fight to reach this stage. Now the goal is to try to win a (championship) belt.”
A short while ago, all of Elliott’s goals with MMA seemed unattainable.
His fighting career was intended to be an outlet to continue his love for wrestling, but there was little to love. After a second straight All-American wrestling season at Central Oklahoma, a NCAA Division II school, Elliott learned success didn’t translate quickly. He started his career 0-2-1.
“I immediately enjoyed the training, but I just wasn’t as good as I felt I should’ve been,” Elliott said. “It was rough. I got pretty down on myself.”
Elliott credits coaches at Grindhouse gym in Lee’s Summit, where he trains full time, for shifting his career in a positive direction.
They credit his work ethic and unrivaled physical condition.
He has won four matches during his eight-match win streak by submission and another three by knockout. One of the knockouts came against Pulver, a former UFC champion, in December.
“He definitely lacked some striking ability when he first came to us,” said James Krause, one of Elliott’s coaches. “But his pace and work ethic is impossible to match. He doesn’t get tired ever. When you add some striking skill and jujitsu, it gets ridiculous.”
Elliott’s opponent today, Dodson, represents an athletic challenge. Dodson is an explosive striker with quick moves. He fought his way into UFC by winning Spike TV’s The Ultimate Fighter, a reality TV show competition, and won his UFC debut against T.J. Dillashaw last December.
Elliott hopes to follow in his opponent’s footsteps. He trains at Grindhouse daily — a well-rounded routine that even includes three days per week of women’s boot camp, recommended by his father.
Elliott is ready for Dodson.
“You know, it’s weird, but I’m not really nervous at all,” Elliott said. “My success has boosted my confidence. I’m such a different fighter than when I started all of this.”