After receiving a welcome to the UFC before his Sunday bout on UFC FIGHT PASS against Francimar Barroso, Elvis Mutapcic responded with a “Thank you very much” that sounded eerily like the man he got his nickname “The King” from – Elvis Presley.
“I’ve been practicing,” he laughed, clearly at ease with coming in on short notice for the biggest fight of his career.
“You can’t give me short notice at all,” he said. “There’s no such thing.”
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It’s the response you would expect from someone reared on the Midwest fight circuit that has produced a host of UFC fighters known for their toughness. From Josh Neer and Jeremy Stephens to the entire Miletich Fighting Systems clan that once packed the roster, if you have Iowa next to your name, respect was automatically deserved and given. And while Mutapcic’s birth certificate reads Sarajevo, he made his bones in Des Moines.
“I fought most of my career in Iowa and I grew up in the Midwest, so fighting a lot of tough guys absolutely helps,” he said. “I’m absolutely confident in all my abilities and I have no concern at all about this fight and taking care of business and going out there and performing my best.”
But what makes an Iowa fighter so tough?
“Ignorance,” he deadpans before laughing. “And I mean that in the best way possible. We get hit a lot more than the rest of the guys, and by that, I mean we’ve had a lot more grueling practice sessions. When I started training, you would go in and the sparring was just a slugfest. When I realized that wasn’t the way to train, I switched it up a little bit, but once you develop that mentality, you already did all the hard work, you’ve gotten tested, and after that, it’s all easy. It’s just about growth and improvement.”
The tests didn’t just come in the gym or on fight night for Mutapcic though. They started a lot earlier when he and his family arrived in the United States from Bosnia in August of 2000. Mutapcic, then just 14 years old, was probably the worst age to get acclimated to a new country and culture, and there were growing pains until he eventually found mixed martial arts.
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“You’re a teenager, so the language is one of the bigger barriers you’ve got to overcome,” he said. “And things were a lot different over here than it is over there. We’ve got a lot less rules over there, especially post-war. So it was a bit of an adjustment. I was a really wild kid over there, and when I came over here, I had to calm down a little bit. And when I was starting to get older, I was starting to get a little bit more exposed to trouble. I wasn’t getting into too much trouble, but I was around it. Then I found MMA, I ran with that and it’s served me well so far.”
A pro since 2007, the 29-year-old has won 15 of 18 fights, with notable victories over the likes of Sam Alvey, Cezar Ferreira and Zak Cummings. With that resume, many believed he should have gotten the call to the Octagon a while ago, and he was among that crowd.
“If I said I wasn’t expecting it, I’d be lying,” he laughs. “But everything happens for a reason. I’m here now, I’m gonna make the most of it, embrace the moment and just do what I do.”
That’s fight. And it’s not just an Iowa thing, but a Bosnia thing, and now that he’s here, he’s not leaving.
“I always say Bosnians are like cockroaches, you can’t get rid of them,” he laughs. “If God forbid there was a World War III and a nuclear strike, I got a feeling the Bosnians would be one of those breeds that survive. We just adapt and survive. If I would have stayed in Bosnia, I probably would have never had an opportunity like this and I probably would have never gone this way. I’m extremely happy to be where I’m at, and I’m going to hold on to this opportunity so it doesn’t slip away.”