Most fighters will try to portray an image as if they’re serious and dedicated to their craft. However, as mixed martial arts has evolved as a professional sport over the last two decades, a handful of fighters have shown they’re nothing more than circus clowns trying to make a spectacle of themselves and the sport.

Fortunately for fans, there are actual role models in MMA that carry themselves with respect and dignity. Recent examples like Junior dos Santos, Georges St-Pierre, Randy Couture and Lyoto Machida have proven that childish antics, horseplay, bad attitudes and goofy hair styles don’t make anyone a respectable athlete. They have shown that focus, dedication, hard work and an undeniable desire to be the best is what makes champions.

In a constantly evolving roster of professional fighters, it is important to be aware of people coming up through the ranks that display this X-factor. The Ultimate Fighter is notorious for giving MMA fighters a bad name, because, for the sake of the reality TV culture, the producers are looking for spectacles, instead of “respectables.”

Bektic (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

In the case of Bosnian-born Mirsad Bektic, the X-factor is in full force.

The 22-year-old Bektic and his family were forced out of their war-torn home country, and ultimately landed in Lincoln, Neb. At a young age, Bektic began training in karate and boxing, before ultimately transitioning to MMA. He eventually moved to Omaha, Neb., where he began training at Mid-America Martial Arts. In July 2011, he took his talents to the famed American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., to take his training to the next level.

As an amateur, Bektic racked up a 9-0 record before turning pro, where he continued his winning ways to the tune of a 5-0 pro mark. Prior to his last fight, Bektic had finished every opponent he had ever faced, with an impressively well-rounded seven TKOs and six submissions.

At Resurrection Fighting Alliance 5 in November, Bektic went the distance for the first time in his career, winning by unanimous decision. While he would have liked to finish his opponent, it was good for him to finally endure a full three-round battle.

“It was a learning experience for me, and it matured me as a person and a fighter,” stated Bektic in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “More than anything, it showed me I can go three rounds. It wasn’t just a slow back-and-forth fight. It was action-packed from round one. I was working. He was working. I lost positions. I gained positions. I had to work for everything, so it was a good thing for me”

Now on a 14-fight winning streak, Bektic is set to fight this Friday at RFA 7 at the FirstBank Center in Broomfield, Colo. This will be the last fight on his current RFA contract, and it’s a card he had his eyes set on.

“I talked to my manager and said I wanted to be on the show in March,” Bektic explained. “Originally, there were supposed to be two shows in March. I went home to Nebraska for a week and spent some time with my family, and spent some time training up there. Then, I came back here and resumed training, and I wanted to fight in March, but there ended up being only one show, so my manager took care of everything.”

Depending on how fit a fighter is, the altitude in Broomfield can be challenging. At over 5,000 feet in elevation, out-of-state fighters sometimes have to go to great lengths to prepare for the thinner air. However, Bektic, as a true professional, keeps it simple.

“Just being in shape,” he said. “I’ve fought in Colorado before. And, I just believe in keeping myself in shape, and I’ll be good to go.”

Bektic will be facing arguably his toughest opponent yet at RFA 7. Nick Macias, who trains out of Factory X Muay Thai in the Denver Metro area, will be battling in his second RFA event. Macias will be looking to continue his trend of never being finished. At 5-2 as a pro, Macias has stopped his opponents in four of his wins and has only been beaten by unanimous decision. His training partners include some tremendous professionals, including the UFC’s Chris Camozzi.

In the eyes of the extremely focused Bektic, Macias is a good fighter, but just another guy in his way.

“I think it’s a great match-up,” said Bektic. “He’s well-rounded, real strong. He’s good at striking and jiu-jitsu, so I feel real good about it.

“To me—respectfully saying—I just know I’m a better fighter. Like I said, I mean it respectfully. He’s really good on the ground, has a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, but I train with the best guys here in the world. I really believe that. They’re some of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players in the world. So, I’ll be ready. And I am ready. Right now.”

In addition to coach Ricardo Liborio, both the godfather of ATT and a black belt in BJJ under Master Carlson Gracie, and the other coaches Bektic referred to, he also trains with former WEC champ Mike Brown, Brad “One Punch” Pickett and Sirwan Kakai, amongst many other top-level fighters.

With a sort of eerie calm, Bektic kept his prediction, much like his altitude training, very simple.

“I just see myself winning,” he admitted. “I’m coming in prepared, you know. I’m not unprepared for anything. I’m looking to win.”

Much like a GSP, Couture or dos Santos, Bektic doesn’t try to make any outlandish claims or predictions. He is truly a fighter’s fighter and a consummate professional. At no point, does the youngster claim any type of TKO or submission or crazy knockout. He’s very much a “go in there and do my thing” kind of guy, and that makes him both respectful and scary. He is so talented that he knows he can win in any form. His head is clear and he is ready to go.

With his RFA contract running out after this weekend, one would assume that Bektic has big plans for his future. However, with his extreme maturity and focus, he isn’t really contemplating what’s next at this point.

“I’m not thinking ahead of anything right now,” confessed Bektic. “I’m just focusing on the present. I’m just thinking in the present and focusing on what’s right now. And, Nick Macias is ahead of me, and that’s all I’m thinking about. After the fight, I’ll sit down with the coaches, and we’ll see what’s next for me.”

Bektic (R) connects with a right hand (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Some fighters carry very balanced lives both in and out of the cage, and some have their sights set solely on their careers. Spouses, kids, hobbies or even the spotlight can come into play in their lives, and, even though they maintain that they spend their whole lives in the gym, it’s not always true. In the case of Bektic, he’s young and chasing a dream, and nothing’s going to get in the way of that.

“This is a full-time job for me,” Bektic elaborated. “This is why I moved to Florida. So, everything revolves around my training schedule. So, my week is pretty much just training, then I come home and hang out with my roommates, and that’s pretty much how I live my day.

“We get new guys in from all around the world. So, we just build relationships with them. When I’m not hanging out with them, I’m reading or trying to stay in touch with family and friends from Nebraska. We’ll watch fights—UFC fights, Bellator. We just have a small circle with these guys.”

Bektic’s life, at this point, is all about fighting. Even for recreation, it’s watching film or hanging out with other young fighters who share the same passion and goals.

From the civil war in Bosnia to the Midwest to one of the top MMA gyms in the world, Mirsad Bektic has had quite the journey for a 22-year-old. Now positioned to make a big statement in the world of professional MMA, he is ready to take his attitude of class to the next step in his career this Friday night in the Rocky Mountains.

Bektic wants fans to know one thing about him, and one thing only.

“Keep an eye out for me. I believe in myself. I believe in the people around me. I have a purposeful mission, and I’m going to fulfill my destiny. I believe this is it.”

Mirsad would like to thank all of his coaches and teammates at American Top Team, as well as his sponsors at F3 Nutrition and Jaco. He would also like to thank his family and friends for their support.

Top Photo: Mirsad Bektic (top) dominates his opponent (Keith Mills/Sherdog)