Did you know that undefeated WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) has been a longtime training partner of a current top-ten UFC featherweight? If you don’t, this story will broaden your boxing-MMA crossover knowledge.
One of the world’s pound-for-pound best boxers has been making the media rounds to promote his April 20th title defense vs. Amir Khan (33-4, 20 KOs), and in an interview with the Outside the Cage podcast, “Bud” discussed his relationship with Mirsad Bektic.
“That’s my guy,” Crawford said.
“We train together,” he continued. “He lives in Nebraska. When he came from Bosnia he moved to Nebraska, and we’ve been training together for — I would say nine years? Probably a little more than that. Before he was even professional.”
Crawford is a native of Omaha with a major local fanbase. Bektic moved to the United States when he was nine years old, and graduated high school in Lincoln. While Crawford made his pro boxing debut in 2008, Bektic became an amateur MMA fighter in 2009 and a pro in 2011, debuting in the UFC in 2014. Crawford can be seen in this Instagram photo meeting up with Mirsad after Bektic’s UFC 225 win over Ricardo Lamas.
“Believe it or not, he was a boxer before he converted to MMA,” Crawford said. “Before I even knew him, he had boxed when he was younger and he was just getting back into MMA. He was actually an amateur in MMA, but I never knew he boxed until a friend of mine had told me that they had fought when they were younger. So yeah, he was a boxer before he was into MMA.”
This article from 2016 goes into more about how Bektic was introduced to Crawford, as well as Olympic wrestling gold medalist Jordan Burroughs, through former Nebraska football head athletic trainer Doak Ostergard.
“I had my doubts, but he said he needed some boxing tuneup, so we go into this building, and he gets to spar with current world champ Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford,” Ostergard said.
“I knew MMA had boxing and wrestling aspects, and I asked Manning and I asked Crawford if Mirsad had any talent,” Ostergard said. “Everything they told me was that, yes, he had plenty of talent in wrestling and boxing. A lot of talent.”
Crawford, himself a former wrestler, was also asked if he ever wanted to explore a career switch to MMA. Unsurprisingly, he’s not interested, and fighter pay in the sport is a major reason for it.
“They don’t pay MMA [fighters] enough, I’m sorry.”
“A lot of people ask me that because they know I used to wrestle and stuff like that,” Crawford said. “They always ask me ‘they don’t pay enough.’ For me to be putting my life on the line and getting my hands and feet [and] everything broken. Kicking and all that stuff... I gotta get paid.”
Crawford vs. Khan will be on ESPN PPV from Madison Square Garden in New York. As for Bektic, he was scheduled to fight Renato Moicano at UFC 231 last December, but was forced to withdraw due to injury. The Lamas win last June is his most recent outing.