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Evan Elder poses on the scale during the UFC weigh-in at UFC APEX on April 22, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Evan Elder Is At Peace

Evan Elder Is Keeping Positive As He Prepares For This Weekend's Fight

We’ve already established that if Evan Elder isn’t the most positive man in mixed martial arts, he’s at least in the Top Five, but he is human, so you have to assume that sunny attitude was tested when he lost his first two UFC fights under less than ideal circumstances.

The first bout against Preston Parsons in April of 2022 saw him take the fight on short notice up a weight class. He lost a decision. Then, in February, he was up 20-18 on all three judges’ scorecards against Nazim Sadykhov before a cut ended the fight less than a minute into the third round. He got a Fight of the Night bonus for his efforts, but that was little consolation to the Missouri native, whose pre-UFC record of 7-0 was now 7-2.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn't devastated at first,” said Elder. “When I go back and rewatch the fight, I can see how badly it upset me When they stopped the fight, man, I literally fell to my knees. I felt like they just ripped my heart out of my chest because I felt like I was right there, right on the edge. I had four-and-a-half minutes left and I was going to get my hand raised, get my first win in the UFC, and leave with two checks. And I felt like it got taken away from me. And so I was devastated in the moment. But I'll tell you what, I really believe that God is so good, and I think that his plan just so far exceeds what I could ever dream of for myself that it ended up working out the best way possible.”

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See, still positive. And in its own way, everything has worked out for Elder as he approaches his third UFC fight this Saturday against Genaro Valdez. He’s got a little extra cash in his pocket from the Fight of the Night bonus, he got booked again against an opponent that should be a good stylistic fit for him, and while the won-loss record says something else, the fans of the sport are well aware of everything that went into both of his defeats.

“Because of the controversy (of the Sadykhov fight), I got a lot of attention,” Elder said. “Everybody was hitting me up online, showing me so much love and support, like, ‘Man, you were winning that fight. They took it from you, and it was a great fight.’ On top of that, things were going great as far as it was. It was really entertaining, and I learned so much from the fight. I really can't say enough good things about it. It's such a beautiful life lesson. too, because what seems like a tragedy in the moment, if we can put our emotions aside and get through the tough time, we can look back and realize why we had to go through what we did and why it had to go the way it did in order for us to be where we are.”

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Evan Elder punches Nazim Sadykhov of Russia in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Evan Elder punches Nazim Sadykhov of Russia in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

A lot of people turn to faith when things are going bad. Less embrace it in good and bad times. Elder is one of those folks who sees his faith as a 24/7 part of his life. And in doing so, when things do get sour, he’s able to weather the storm and find a balance that keeps him moving forward.

“I'm not even trying to be cliché but putting my faith in God allows me to approach life fearlessly,” Elder said. “I'm not worried about it because it's not on me. I'm just going to do the very best I can. And I know is that God's going to take care of the rest. And I just feel like - I'm sure we all can understand this - that whenever we relieve ourselves of that mental stress, it feels like it was a physical weight on our body. So whenever we can get the mental side of things relaxed and at ease, we can really then perform to the best of our ability physically. And whenever I do get stressed out, because it's not that I don't - I'll tell you what, I've already been battling some bad nerves for this fight - but I've done so well with overcoming them and I've almost put them in the rearview mirror now because I've just talked to God so much about it and he's given me so much peace.”

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In the midst of sanctioned combat, the greatest gift can be peace, and it seems like the 26-year-old has found it, which means it might be a bad night for Valdez, who is also looking to rebound from the first two losses of his pro career, both of which took place in the UFC Octagon to Matt Frevola and Natan Levy. Like Elder, Valdez’ pre-UFC resume proved that he belongs here; now he just has to start getting wins. That’s a lot to put on a 15-minute segment of your life, but guys like Elder and Valdez are built differently, and when “The Phenom” prepares for battle this weekend, it’s with the mindset that nothing good comes easy.

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“I've been obsessed with trying to be the best fighter I can be,” he said. “And martial arts taught me all the things that I think that I ever needed to learn about life. It's like every single day I'd wake up excited to go train and couldn't wait to get better. And I just knew that as long as I sacrificed as much as possible, that eventually it would pay off. And no matter what, I don't get discouraged from the failures; you're going to have to fail along the way. Things are going to be hard. But in those hard times, that's when we learn the most. So take everything with a grain of salt and just keep moving forward.”

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UFC Fight Night: Holm vs Bueno Silva took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 15, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!