Back in 2012, Elvis Mutapcic was a top middleweight prospect. Hailing from the Des Moines, Iowa fight scene via a war-torn childhood in Bosnia during the 90s, Mutapcic seemed poised to break into the UFC and make his name as a successful fighter in their ranks. He had a 9-2 record coming out of 2011 and reeled off another 4 wins immediately after landing the 7 spot on Leland and Smoogy's list.
It's been 3-years since that scouting report was written, and Mutapcic is still looking for his break. It's not for a lack of trying and generally not for a lack of success, but for some reason things just haven't clicked.
One of those reasons may lie in a less than perfect stint in the World Series of Fighting. It wasn't terrible. Mutapcic went 1-1 with a loss to powerful grinder Jesse Taylor and a win over top rising MW prospect Kelvin Tiller. But, the inactivity has made that single loss look like a much bigger dent on his record and really slowed the success that his run in the MFC had built. It took 10 months for Mutapcic to get his first WSOF bout (in part due to being pulled off WSOF 5 at the last minute), and another 8 months to get him his next fight for the promotion. Now he's a free agent again, and looking for a new avenue to get to the UFC.
Mutapcic sat down with Bloody Elbow to talk about his career and why he's still fighting for a spot in the world's top MMA promotion.
"I felt like it was the right time before," Mutapcic told Bloody Elbow, speaking to his desire for a UFC contract, "but I don't feel like I was seasoned enough. For whatever reason it didn't happen before. I just didn't think it was going to happen. Now it feels right, you know? There's guys in there that I beat. And I've seen what they're doing to some of these other guys. So, without pressing that too much, I'm at a point in my life right now where it's either... Not at those crossroads, but I'm coming up on those crossroads where it's either going to be like, "Look, I need to figure out what I'm going to do for myself as of living wise, what I'm going to do for a living. If I'm going to be a fighter or involved with fighting regardless, or if I'm going to do something else." I just feel like physically and mentally, my body is in its prime and all I need is an opportunity to prove it."
After fighting out his MFC contract, under which he became the promotion's Middleweight champion and even had a successful title defense, Mutapcic took what looked to be the best offer on the table, a contract with the World Series of Fighting. They paid him well, compared to the rest of their roster at the time. For WSOF 12 he was the top earner on the card with a $10k/$10k disclosed purse. But, at a time when a number of other fighters were having problems working under the promotion, Mutapcic felt like he wasn't making the best of his career.
"World Series overall has treated me very well," said Mutapcic, talking about his two fight stint with the promotion. "But, it didn't feel right. When I came in, the way I understood it, they were going to bring in new cats, hungry cats, great match-ups, and then I feel like they went a different direction. They started pulling these guys in that washed out from the UFC and that, they're very decent fighters... There's guys, and I told that to Sefo and Ali too, I was like, 'Look, you guys are... When I signed with you guys, the way I felt like it, you guys were going to bring in new guys you were going to build... I thought you were going to be more like Bellator.' Then what they end up doing is completely opposite, bringing in some old guys. They actually ended up doing essentially what Bellator is doing right now.
"They got really big name guys and they got guys coming up. I feel like they're spending money on those guys instead of us. Which, don't get me wrong, I was one of the better... When I say 'us,' I'm saying younger fighters. I was very well paid and I can't complain about that. To me it didn't feel right. I wasn't active enough. That's a huge thing with a lot of fighters, I've gotta be active. You make me sit between 4-6 months between fights, I'm not going to be the same fighter, because you lose that edge. Unless there's an injury, or yes sometimes you need time off, but I just needed to be more active."
Despite his desire for a more active schedule, and with his time in the WSOF behind him, Mutapcic decided it was time to take some time away from the sport to stabilize his career; to work on getting his financial life a bit more grounded in order to put more time into his training, to work on becoming a smarter fighter.
Photo Credit - Midwest Cage Championships
"I took, last year after I fought Kelvin Tiller, I took eight months off. I started my own business," was Mutapcic's response when I asked him about a recent statement he'd made on social media. "That way I can concentrate more on fighting, instead of working, because I used to have a full time job, you know? I'm trying to be a better smarter fighter. I came up in an era where it was the tough guys were the ones that made it. And I was one of those tough guys. Well, that tough guy likes remembering his name, you know? I did some changes in my training career. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm still going to go out there and fight, but I'm going to do it smarter. I'm still going to be that aggressive, same fighter, but I have to change a couple things. I don't have the longest reach, so I created more head movement, better angles. I feel like I'm improved as a fighter all the way around and I'm just waiting for that shot, to get it, so I can show everybody."
And for Mutapcic, he's had a lot of building to do from where he started. He took his first fight at just 17, not exactly on a dare, but not much more than that; signing up for an open fight night in the notorious Des Moines proving ground, Toad Holler:
"Simple as hell," Mutapcic laughed, when I asked him what made him take that first fight. "I was watching... First time I watched UFC, somebody says, 'Man these guys are tough. I mean, imagine just fighting a regular guy?' I looked at my buddy and I said, 'I could do that.' And they kinda laughed at me, you know? A few years later, we continued watching UFC as it came on, when I was 17 we heard about Toad Holler. And my friend's like, 'Oh man you gotta... Toad Holler's been around for a while, you know I haven't been down there, but that MMA stuff you were talking about,' what we called the UFC stuff back then... He's like, 'You wanna go watch it? They're amateurs and there's some pros that fight.' Because this was like, you sign up and you fight. And he's like, 'Even pros go out there and fight.' So I'm like, 'Lets go check it out.'
"So, I checked it out and I said, 'I'm coming back here next week...' or like two weeks later, 'and I'm gonna sign up.' They're like, 'No, you're not.' And I'm, 'No seriously, I am.' So, I went out and trained for two weeks. I thought I trained for two weeks. It was a lot of bench press and curls, ran probably for like a half a mile a day. I was getting all the good workouts in. And then I went back two weeks later. I was just... Growing up I was naturally athletic and at least I was very good at... I wasn't the most athletic guy out there, but I could always catch a guy, you know? So, shortly after, I went in there, I ended up stopping a guy by leg kicks, I think it was third round. He quit in the third round, stopped by leg kicks. And then came back a week later, did it again. Took some time off... But, the biggest thing was, I saw it and I was like, 'This is what I was born to do.'
"This is really it. I can't think of another thing I'd be... I'm one of those guys that anything I do... I can do anything. I'm a mechanic, I'm a welder, I'm a this, I'm a that. I can do anything with my hands, but when it came down to it, since I was a kid I was really good at fighting, and I felt like I watched UFC and I knew, this is literally it. I don't have to make up my mind on my career. It's just going to be what I have to do in the meantime, until I get there. I just hope I get... All I want, I hope that I get in there. It's not like I don't get... It's going to be really hard to burn me out. But, I just hope I get in there and put on a show, man. Just one shot. Just, all I need is one shot.
"You know when somebody's born to do something? That's me and fighting. And I know a lot of guys say that. I was literally, and not by choice, by where life landed me, since I was a kid... I feel like I was accidentally bred to fight, I really do. Bosnians[sic] are known for being the workhorses of Europe, so we're not afraid to put in work. I grew up during the war, so I feel like the things that I've seen and the things that I went through... That time, there's nothing in the cage that's going to get close to that. I mean, I literally grew up thinking, 'Okay, am I gonna eat today? Is this the last day?' So, growing up like that, and then... I just, I'm just good at it. I feel like I was put on earth to do this. I feel like I might not be the best fighter in the world, but I'll give him a run for his money."
You can follow Elvis Mutapcic on Twitter @ElvisMutapcic