On Oct. 26 at the Mayfield Trade Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Maximum Fighting Championship will crown a middleweight champion in the 38th event since the Canadian promotion launched in 2001. The title fight will be the headliner of MFC 35: Explosive Encounter, as middleweight hopefuls Elvis Mutapcic and Joseph Henle will square off in a five-round battle.
Many fighters don’t have the experience of competing in title bouts, but the 26-year-old Mutapcic is no stranger to being in five-round encounters, serving as the longtime middleweight champion in the Midwest Cage Championship promotion. Considering the amount of title fights he has been in, Mutapcic hasn’t changed up his routine much, but admits he has pushed himself a bit more in preparation for MFC 35.
“I’ve been a champion for a local company for the last three and a half to four years, so I’ve been training for five-round fights for quite a while,” Mutapcic explained in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “But knowing this is a bigger opportunity, of course I’m going to step it up and pick up the intensity a little bit, and do extra work in boxing, kickboxing and wrestling as much as possible. I want to make sure I’m on top of my game with strength and conditioning, and be the best fighter I can be.”
The holder of a professional MMA record of 11-2 is one of the rising stars in the sport, but he didn’t have an easy road to get to this point in his life.
Mutapcic was raised by his parents in Bosnia, a small country in southeastern Europe. During his teen years, one of the worst wars of the century was occurring. One-half of the population were held as refugees, while more than 100,000 were killed in the three and a half years. But Mutapcic and his family were able to survive the conditions, and traveled to the state of Iowa to live in peace. It was here where he was introduced to the sport of mixed martial arts.
“I moved to Des Moines 12 years ago with my family [because] of the financial situation after a war. It gave me more opportunities here, and honestly when I moved, I didn’t even know much about MMA,” Mutapcic said. “A group of friends that I used to hang out with at the time showed me one of the first UFC events and right off the bat I said, ‘I can do this, guys.’ Then everybody kinda laughed at me, saying, ‘if there was anybody without any training who could do it, you’d probably be last at it.’
“Shortly after that, I went to a local bar where Josh Neer, Jeremy Stephens and a lot of local guys started at and saw the fights. All you had to do was sign a waiver and you could fight. At the time, I was 17 when I signed a waiver and fought twice. Then I took a little break after that, got back at it, and been doing it ever since.”
Squaring off with “The King” on Friday will be Joseph “Leonidas” Henle, who comes in with an undefeated record through eight fights. Both Mutapcic and Henle fought at the previous MFC event in August, so the two are no stranger to each other. Mutapcic knows the type of competition he has in his way for the belt, but is looking forward to stepping in the cage with Henle.
“Me and him actually hung out before the fight. He’s a really cool guy, very talented, and very tough,” critiqued Mutapcic. “I know he’s gonna bring it every minute of every round until I put him away, and it will make for an exciting fight. I just can’t wait to get in there and mix it up with him.”
Combined, the two men have 16 wins by knockout or submission, so it’s unlikely this bout goes the five-round distance. Henle has spoken out, saying the fight won’t get out of the fourth round at the latest, and Mutapcic agrees 100 percent with that prediction.
“I’m pretty sure it’s not getting out of the fourth round,” stated Mutapcic. “I predicted a TKO in the fourth round, and both of us apparently feel the same way. I believe it’s gonna be a very high-paced fight, and it’s going to be whoever makes the first mistake, the other person is going to capitalize on it.”
Coming into his explosive encounter, Mutapcic is prepared in every aspect of fighting, and has even picked up some advice from a film to come out on top Friday night.
“I watched that movie 300 about five or six times, so I picked up some pointers on how to beat Leonidas,” Mutapcic said jokingly. “ I have to fight my fight, capitalize on what I do, and try to use the game plan. Just do what I do best and everything is gonna take care of itself from there.”
Photo: Mutapcic celebrates his victory at MFC 34 (Maximum Fighting Championship)