ST. LOUIS – The current discussion about top contenders to Max Holloway’s UFC featherweight title includes Frankie Edgar, Brian Ortega and Josh Emmett. With a win Sunday at UFC Fight Night 124, Darren Elkins hopes to force his way into the conversation.
Currently riding a five-fight winning streak, Elkins (23-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) believes he should already be considered a top 145-pound contender, but he said he won’t complain about being overlooked. He intends on continuing to go about his business and push his streak to six with a win over Michael Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC).
“I’m getting up there,” Elkins told MMAjunkie. “I try not to focus on the negative. That’s not going to get me anywhere. I’m going to complain and get mad and it’s still going to be the same. I’d like to have more big fights or be higher on the card, but if you focus on that then you’re going to worry about other things. Then you’re going to lose, and it doesn’t really matter anyway.”
UFC Fight Night 124 takes place Sunday at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Elkins vs. Johnson airs closes out the FS1-televised preliminary card following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.
Elkins has been part of the UFC roster since 2010, but he kicks off his 2018 campaign coming off arguably his most memorable year to date. He pulled off the “Comeback of the Year” against Mirsad Bektic at UFC 209 in March, and followed that up with a split-decision victory against Dennis Bermudez at UFC on FOX 25 in July.
“The Damage” hasn’t lost a fight since December 2014 and, since making a move to Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, Calif., three fights ago, has improved with each octagon appearance. Current divisional kingpin Holloway (18-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) has run through most of the available contenders in the weight class, but has yet to cross paths with Elkins.
Elkins is a realist and knows he’s unlikely to get a title shot with a win over Johnson at UFC Fight Night 124. But if he can get one more win against a relevant name, he believes he would be deserving of a fight against the winner of the UFC 222 title bout between Holloway and Edgar.
“I’m just looking at the division: You go by the win streaks and the people that the champion has fought,” Elkins said. “There’s only a few guys that (Holloway) hasn’t fought. (If I win), I’m (at) six (straight) fights. I’ll have the second most wins behind him after this fight. I know he’s got Frankie Edgar next, but I want the guy that’s going to get me the title shot. Give me the No. 1 contender and make it the winner gets (to fight) for the championship.”
Elkins said prior to joining Team Alpha Male, he believed his best days were behind him. Still only 33, Elkins admits his skill set reached a plateau that he couldn’t break free of. A change in scenery allowed that to happen, though, and now Elkins is in top form.
“Training at Alpha Male has really helped me,” Elkins said. “My game is evolving a lot more. I think right now I’m reaching my peak, actually. At one point, I thought I was past this, then I changed teams and I got another five-fight win streak going, the second of my career. It’s consistency. I’m a hard worker and I get in there and no matter what, I train hard every day. For me, it’s about consistency.
“I went from a five-fight win streak, then I won, then I lost, then I won. So maybe I thought for a little while maybe the best of me was behind me. I didn’t want to be one of those guys that kept on fighting when they didn’t really have it anymore. I changed teams, I went to Alpha Male and reignited the fire, and I feel better than ever.”
As far as UFC Fight Night 124 goes, Elkins knows he has his hands full with Johnson. “The Menace” is coming off the 2017 “Fight of the Year” with Justin Gaethje and is dropping to featherweight for the first time in his career. Johnson may not be established in the division, but Elkins still feels a win does a lot for his career.
“I’m excited about the fight,” Elkins said. “I feel like he’s a great fighter, an exciting fighter. He’s real athletic with fast hands. When they told me about the fight, I was all in. I like the challenge – that’s a challenge that I wanted. He’s a big name, so I took that fight right away.
For more on UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.