A new threat has risen in the 145-pound division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

While working as a pipefitter outside of the cage, Darren Elkins is quietly climbing the ladder in the featherweight division in his full-time job. Most UFC fighters don’t have a job outside of fighting, but Elkins is able to make due with a busy schedule.

“It used to be real hard, as I was an apprentice, but now I’m a journeyman,” the featherweight told The MMA Corner in a recent interview. “Now I take off time for fighting and then go back to work (pipefitting) once I’m done with my training camp.”

Elkins (R) celebrates victory (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Elkins will square off with The Ultimate Fighter season 14 winner Diego Brandao at UFC 146 in Las Vegas this weekend. This will be Brandao’s first bout since earning his six-figure UFC contract this past December. Everyone, including Elkins, knows that this up-and-comer has a ton of talent.

“He’s dangerous obviously,” Elkins stated. “He’s got a lot of knockout power with that overhand right, good submissions, and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, so I think it’s going to be a good fight.”

The 28-year-old Elkins started out his career as a lightweight and had an impressive run going 11-2, but has taken advantage of the UFC’s 145-pound division. As a featherweight, Elkins has gone 2-0, and he is far better suited to this weight class.

“I feel a lot more comfortable,” Elkins said. “The weight cut really isn’t that bad and more of a natural weight for me. I feel like I’m in better shape at 145.”

His opponent, Brandao, will give him a solid test, but Elkins is prepared for battle and knows what he will have to do to get a victory on May 26.

“(My keys) are pretty much to stay away from his overhand right and staying busy,” explained Elkins. “If it goes to the ground, I need to get in good position and posture, but I don’t like to get too much into my game plan.”

The Indiana native later added, “I’m gonna mix it up. I’m not a huge fan of strategy too much. It’s a fight so strategy goes out the window. He’s a wild man out there and comes out with a lot of intensity. I’m looking for him to come out real hard and I’m gonna capitalize off that.”

The entire main card for UFC 146 is filled with guys twice as large as Elkins, including Junior dos Santos defending his heavyweight title against Frank Mir in the main event. However, Elkins and Brandao will headline the preliminary portion of the card that will be aired on FX.

Elkins (R) throws a right hand (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

“I’m really excited,” exclaimed Elkins. “It’s always a good thing when you get on TV and show what you’re fighting for and work your way up. You get to have more family, friends, and fans watching you (as well).”

A win on Saturday will improve Elkins’s featherweight record to 3-0. Elkins is aware that defeating a guy like Brandao will give his career a major boost.

“It would be a good win for me,” said Elkins. “Obviously, every time you win in the UFC it’s a big win, but it’s one of the toughest opponents I’ve had in the UFC. I think he’s got a lot of hype behind him, so I could steal some of the hype.”

But even though a victory will propel him up the ladder, Elkins isn’t concerned with the rankings.

“I haven’t been thinking about that. I take one fight at a time and when I beat him, I’ll let the UFC decide where I’m at. I’m not gonna look past this fight, not gonna worry where I’m at in the division, and look to win this weekend.”

Darren would like to thank his friends, family, fans, his manager, team, and coaches. Follow him on Twitter @Darren_Elkins

Photo: Darren Elkins (blue gloves) ground and pounds Tiequan Zhang at UFC 136 (MMAFighting)

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.