Darren Elkins has been making a steady climb up the ranks of the UFC's featherweight division. At least he was, right up until March 16th when he stopped Antonio Carvalho in the first round. Now, suddenly, with only a month to prepare he's facing the biggest fight of his career, a fight that could see him rise to the no. 1 contender for the featherweight strap.
He took a moment to talk with us over here at Bloody Elbow about what it means to get this opportunity to fight Chad Mendes at UFC on FOX 7, and to discuss how he'll be looking to prepare for a big fight in such a small window.
You had a short fight last time out, how are you feeling now?
I feel great, man. No injuries. I didn't have any injuries, not really sore or anything. I feel great.
You're stepping up to fight Mendes in four weeks. You're not hurt or anything, so why not take it, right?
Yeah, you know I'm not hurt, I'm in shape already. I just got to make the adjustments for the Mendes fight, they really want me to take this fight and it's a great opportunity, so why not.
A win over Mendes puts you right in the conversation for a title shot.
It'll catapult me right to the top. That's why I like the fight. If I win a fight like this I'm definitely right there for the title.
With Ludwig at Alpha Male now, are you hoping Chad stands with you, or are you expecting him to do what he does and go for the takedown?
If you watch Mendes' last couple fights he mixes it up a lot now. He does standup and he does other things. So that's what he's gonna do. If he gets the opportunity to go for a take down, I know he's gonna go for it. But he's not afraid to stand either, so I think he'll mix it up and do both.
Did Joe or Dana ask you to take this fight, or did you hit them up and say 'I'm ready to get back in there as soon as possible'?
No, they asked me if I wanted to take this fight. Sean Shelby, right after the fight, asked my manager "Hey, what do you think about Darren fighting Chad Mendes?" My manager got a hold of me, we met up and I said "Yeah, if that's what they want and they're giving me a great opportunity like that, then that's what I want."
These short notice fights are crazy, but when you're streaking like this is it important to jump on these opportunities?
I think it's important. You get opportunities like this, I think you've gotta jump on it. I've got the momentum going, I want to keep the momentum going. this is definitely the toughest opponent I've ever had the opportunity to face, so I'm really happy about the match up.
Do you think Mendes is going to adjust his game plan around you?
I'm not sure. I think his strategy and my strategies are usually typed the same. We stand up, but we also like going to the ground. He's going to try and prepare for me like I prepare for him: be ready for everything. we're both that type of competitor and that type of athlete. So I think he looks at it and he's like, "Oh he's gonna mix it up well."
After two fights in Canada fighting Canadians you're coming to northern California to fight a guy from northern California.
He's gonna definitely be a crowd favorite. Like I said before when I fought Antonio Carvalho, I don't mind people going out there booing for me, cheering for him. I mean when I get out there I don't really hear stuff like that anyways; I'm in the zone the only thing I really hear is my corner.
I never understand it, how can you zone in on your corner?
I've learned, obviously, from years of wrestling. Hearing the moves, going on the fly, it's kinda weird. Like I said, even my corner's not the loudest guy. My guys aren't the loudest guys, not screaming really loud, but I can hear every word they're saying. I judge in the fight what they're saying; just that extreme focus, that's the only kind of voice you listen for and I guess your mind's just used to looking for that.
Did you get a chance, after this last fight, to splurge a little bit?
I definitely splurged. I had some pizza, I had some ice cream, 'cause ice cream is obviously one of my favorite foods. I splurged some. You gotta get your mind off... I gotta have at least a day or two to get my mind off just fighting, before I go right back into training camps. I didn't mind that, I mean my weight's not gonna be a problem, so I splurged for sure.
Four weeks out now, what are you weighing in at?
I don't know, I'm not that high. I'm in the sixties probably about sixty three walking around or something like that... Maybe sixty five if I had to, nothing crazy.
You're in fight shape, you're ready to go, if this fight was in two weeks it sounds like you'd be ready to take it.
I'd be a bit more hesitant, because then it's like you don't have any time to adjust. But in the time that I have I'll be able to make some adjustments and he's gotta adjust to my style some too, it is what it is I'm just happy for the fight.
Are you worried about over training at all?
I was peaked out the week of the fight for this one. I go off of that; that last week was an easier week anyways going into it so my body's still healing up. I had a couple days off I took right after the fight. It's just listening to my body and training hard and knowing I'm in shape and not trying to over train and not trying to over push it where I don't get no injuries.
When you fight Chad Mendes, is there anyone in particular you bring in?
The gym I come from, Duneland Vale Tudo, we have some great wrestlers. I definitely... The first day of business they knew I was fighting Mendes and made sure they were going to be in there. I'm gonna have to bring in those strong wrestlers and just work with those guys a lot.
Having fought Pat Curran, how do you think he'd do in the UFC right now?
I fought Curran when we were both on our rise. I was undefeated at the time. I maybe had 7 fights at the time, I think he had 7 fights at the time and so that was a long time ago. It's hard to gauge like that, how much different of a fight style he has. But the fights that he's been having, he looks great. He's getting better every fight. I think he'd be pretty good, I think he'd do well, but in a fight you never know.
If you beat Mendes is there anyone on your radar?
I looked at this fight and I took this fight. I figure if I won this fight, this puts me right there at the top for title contention. I want a guy that's going to take me to a title. So if I have to fight the guy that the next fight gets the title, that's the fight I want.
It seems like there's this fraternity, where if you get to that championship level they keep you there and you're always one fight away from a shot.
Yeah It's true. If you're at that level and then if you lose a fight for a championship, then most of the time you go straight to a guy who's one fight away from a championship anyways. And if you get by that then that puts you right back in the no. 1 contenders spot.
What's your stance on TRT?
I'm really not into it too much. Obviously, the big thing is, they let you use it, but it's hard to monitor; you've gotta monitor it. I think that something that really needs to be worked on for some of this is controlling the levels all the time, which is hard. That's the part that's tricky, and people are getting in trouble for. You can use it, but you're supposed to use it just to get a normal testosterone level, nothing higher than that. That's where it gets to be cheating or not cheating. It's a hard thing to gauge.
You can follow Elkins on Twitter here: @Darren_Elkins