It would take some serious searching to find someone who had a more difficult beginning than Elvis Mutapcic.
Born in Sarajevo, Bosnia during the height of the Bosnian war, Mutapcic had to deal with considerable struggle and conflict growing up, experiencing all sorts of turmoil along the way.
By the time he was 13, his family uprooted and moved to America, settling in Iowa. From there, he began working towards a mixed martial arts career, and he was in the perfect setting to work on his grappling alongside a plethora of corn-fed American wrestlers.
Mutapcic has experienced considerable success in his MMA stint thus far, finishing 10 of his 11 victories, including a 25 second knockout of recent Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Brazil winner Cezar Ferreira. He earned a title shot in Canada's MFC promotion earlier this year when he scored a 99 second TKO of Jacen Flynn at MFC 34 just over two months ago.
"The King" will get an opportunity to win the MFC Middleweight Title on Friday night (Oct. 26, 2012) when he battles unbeaten TUF 11 veteran Joseph Henle in the main event of MFC 35 in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. He spoke with MMAmania.com during a recent appearance on The Verbal Submission radio show about his upcoming fight, his idols and his recent run of impressive victories in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Can you talk about this upcoming title opportunity? To me, it seems like the biggest stakes of any fight in your career thus far.
Elvis Mutapcic: Yeah, by far. Joseph is a very well-rounded guy. He's a dangerous guy, always willing to come forward and it's a big opportunity for me so I've got a little bit more pressure on me than before but I believe I'll come out on top victorious.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Joseph Henle is a guy, who in my opinion, is very, very tough. He's got good ground skills and he just showcased some good power in his last fight. Did that surprise you, considering he's more of a wrestler/submission guy, that he was able to get such an explosive knockout on his feet in his last fight?
Elvis Mutapcic: No, not really. He was stepping in there against Luke Harris and Luke Harris is more of a ground guy. So if you take a good ground guy that doesn't have very good stand-up, they can be very uncomfortable. Obviously, Joseph is a good enough stand-up fighter so he was more relaxed, took advantage of it and caught him with a couple good shots.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've talked about how you think you have an advantage over him in every area. Can you elaborate on that because when I look at Joe Henle, he's a pretty well-rounded guy.
Elvis Mutapcic: Absolutely. He's a well-rounded guy but that's my feeling on the subject. Some people might not feel that way, thinking he's more well-rounded than I am but I feel like I'm a better fighter all the way around. I train every aspect of the game. I try to cover all angles and I've been doing this longer than he has. He wrestled but I picked up wrestling with MMA and when I started training MMA, I started in a wrestling gym. Iowa is really known for good wrestlers so I've never had it easy on me training with really good wrestlers. I feel very confident in my skills and my jiu-jitsu and I feel I've got an advantage all the way around.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): People know about your background, growing up in Bosnia during the civil war, but when you came to America and started training mixed martial arts, what was it about Iowa gyms that spoke to you to start and continue your MMA career there?
Elvis Mutapcic: Well I lived in Iowa so it was kinda logical. Miletich Gym was huge when I started fighting and a lot of great fighters came out of Des Moines. I moved a lot in my life when I was younger and I didn't want to move anymore. Iowa, for right now, fits perfect for me and it worked out for me great so far.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you think working with all those Midwestern, gruff-and-tough wrestlers has had a major impact in your top game? In your last fight, you showcased some pretty damn brutal ground and pound.
Elvis Mutapcic: Yeah, absolutely. There's some amazing wrestlers that come out of Iowa so it definitely helped my game out.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Some of your heroes that you've talked about have been Bruce Lee and some famous boxers. Was that what created your interest in mixed martial arts in the first place?
Elvis Mutapcic: Yeah absolutely. I grew up in a war so there wasn't a whole lot of things I had an opportunity to do. Most of the time we didn't have power in the war but when we did have power, I was watching movies. I was always drawn towards action movies and in particular, Bruce Lee movies. I loved boxing too like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. They were my idols and I always tried to mimic both my guys and they played a huge part in what I do right now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What was it about mixed martial arts that drew you? All your heroes were stand-up strikers. What was it that made you choose MMA over say boxing or kickboxing?
Elvis Mutapcic: No offense to boxers or kickboxers but to me, personally, I never found a full fit. That's what I love about MMA is if you're losing a fight standing, you can take somebody down or you can mix it up. It just felt like more of a fit for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Mark Pavelich has been singing your praises ever since signing with the MFC, talking about your knockout of the TUF Brazil winner, saying you're a lethal striker with massive power. How does it feel to have a promoter have your back like this?
Elvis Mutapcic: It feels great. I'm glad somebody noticed. I worked my behind off to get where I'm at. I've been training hard for the last four to five years, working two-a-days and putting a lot of time in the gym. Somebody finally noticed that I have a lot to offer. It gives me a lot of motivation to go out there and perform your best.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Was there a moment in the last year or so where you really felt like you turned the corner? You've racked up most of the biggest wins of your career in your most recent fights.
Elvis Mutapcic: Yes and no. I honestly, every time somebody asks me how much I think I improved, every year when I look back and think about if I fought myself from a year earlier, I know I would wreck me. I think I improved dramatically every year but I want to say the thing that gave me a bit of an edge and made me step up a little bit was a loss against a guy I didn't think was as good as me, he was just faster. It was my last loss against Artenas Young. I just stepped it up even more. I always push it hard, but after that loss, I stepped it up even more and tried to cover even more bases of MMA and it's definitely been paying off so far.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What would it mean for you to go out there, do your best and win that MFC middleweight title on Friday night?
Elvis Mutapcic: It would mean a lot. It's another point where I get to prove that I'm at the next level and I'm ready to fight the best in the world. It would mean the world to me. At this point in my career, I can't afford to take a loss. This fight could definitely make me or break me.
Elvis would like to thank all his training partners. Josh Neer, Miguel Rios, Nick Strauss from Spartan Strength, Max Muscle, his jiu-jitsu coach, his boxing coach and all the fans that have supported him. You can follow him on Twitter @ElvisMutapcic.