Mixed martial arts is a global sport that has been at the professional level for at least two decades. Granted, the sport continues to evolve with new talent continuously hitting rings around the world, while most of the original pioneers from the early 90s have since retired. However, there are still a handful of veterans gracing the cages of pro MMA, leaving the occasional opportunity for an up-and-comer to fight someone that was already in high school when the younger fighter was born.

Mirsad Bektic has had an amazingly wild ride for a 22-year-old. After being born in Bosnia and ultimately forced out of his home in the war-torn nation, Bektic spent some time as a refugee in Germany and ultimately landed in Lincoln, Neb., where the young professional began a dynamic career in MMA. Between his time at Mid-America Martial Arts in Omaha and his current home at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., the well-traveled fighter has managed to go undefeated in six pro fights and four amateur bouts. Only going to decision once, he has proven that he can finish fights no matter where they go, and he can do so in any round.

Bektic is part of a huge team at ATT, and being such a dynamic fighter, he is a valuable cornerman for some of his teammates. They live together, they train together, and they fight together. Already establishing himself as a world traveler, Bektic had the opportunity to take a trip to the Far East to corner his teammate, Sirwan Kakai, for Pancrase 252, the 20th anniversary show for the promotion. It was there that he would meet his next opponent, an old-school MMA veteran who is 13 years the elder of Bektic.

“Joe Pearson’s been around for a long time,” said Bektic in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I actually met him in September. I was cornering one of my roommates in Japan, and Joe Pearson fought on the same card. He was one of the only Americans there, like me, so we actually chatted it up a lot.

“I actually gave him my manager’s number, in case he wanted to get a fight in Victory [Fighting Championship] sometime. He told me thank you and ended up calling my manager. The only fight he had for him was me, and he took it.”

VFC is a regional promotion out of Omaha, and owner Ryan Stoddard is also Bektic’s manager. Pearson is a 35-year-old longtime Miletich fighter who hails from Bettendorf, Iowa. The two cities are only about a four and a half hour drive apart, which makes it very interesting that the match-up was the product of a meeting halfway around the world.

At VFC 41, this Saturday night at Ralston Arena in Ralston, Neb., Bektic will face Pearson in what is sure to be an exciting fight. Bektic is a young, very well-rounded MMA machine, and Pearson is the proverbial BJJ slickster.

In his 62-fight pro career, dating back to 2002, Pearson has won 39 fights by submission and only four by knockout. Seven of his losses have come by knockout and 11 by submission. Doing the math, this veteran, dubbed “The Triangular Strangler,” has only been to a decision once in his entire career, and that fight was his first-ever pro battle, which ended in a draw. Needless to say, there is very little chance that this fight makes it to the final bell. Pearson comes out to finish fights, and Bektic’s plan is no different.

“I feel great,” said the native Bosnian. “I feel like I’m going to be faster, smarter and a more explosive striker. There are a couple things he does really well, better than a lot of people, but I have a great training camp, and I’m going to be more than prepared for that. I look forward to showcasing some different skills from my arsenal. I think this is the perfect fight to do that.

“We’re going to touch gloves and get after it. I get after it right away in every fight. I start like I finish every fight. I start strong and I finish strong. I don’t think anybody is going to miss out on any excitement in this one.”

Bektic doesn’t really need to tell anybody anything about the way he fights. His performances speak for themselves. In his last fight, at RFA 7 in March, Bektic faced fellow up-and-comer Nick Macias in what turned out to be a very quick fight. In less than two minutes, Bektic completely dismantled his opponent, winning by nasty TKO, and everything went according to strategy.

“I trained hard,” stated the ATT phenom. “I knew I had a plan for whichever way the fight went, whether it fell to the ground or stayed on the feet. I knew he would come with a couple different things. As soon as I double-legged him, I already knew what I was doing, and that’s how I was able to finish the job so fast.”

Finish the job he did. Although he was ready to get right back in the cage, an injury sidelined Bektic for a few months. While Bektic was in recovery, Stoddard was looking for his next fight, and then the Pearson match popped up.

“I found out in October,” Bektic explained. “I had an ankle injury. I was supposed to fight in July, but I got injured then. We were looking at fighting in November, but my manager didn’t want to do something with RFA, so we were looking at some different promotions. He sent out a thing about the Victory show in December and asked if I was okay with that. And, I was like, ‘yeah, why not?’.”

So, in a strange turn of global events, Bektic and Pearson will face off Saturday night at VFC 41, and the young man looks to continue with his winning ways. Being only 22, though, he has bigger goals for 2014 than just fighting in regional promotions.

“Obviously, my ultimate goal is to be in the UFC,” admitted Bektic. “Hopefully, I only have one more fight in 2014, two at the most, and [then] I’ll get to sign with the UFC. I know they are going to have some shows in Europe—Germany, Turkey and all those places—so I’d love to get on one of those shows. You know, I lived in Germany for six years, and I’m from that part of the world, so that’d be really awesome. My ultimate goal is to be in the UFC by the middle of next year.”

While many fighters share this goal, Bektic is considered one of the top up-and-comers in the world, and he has a better chance than most of making it into the big show. The best part about Bektic is his personality. He is not one of those primadonna goofballs with funny-colored hair and an immature, sophomoric attitude, as so often are showcased on The Ultimate Fighter reality show. Bektic keeps his head down, stays out of trouble and allows his performance to speak for itself.

“My roommates and I go out to the movies and hang out. I don’t drink or anything, but I like to go out and relax a little bit, and just have fun, you know?” Bektic elaborated. “I just want people to know I’m somebody that is doing the right thing, the right way, and I’m going to fulfill my purpose, which is getting that belt in the UFC.”

Bektic keeps life simple, clean and on the right track. His performance in the ring is calculating, nasty, and showcases his top-tier talent. A win over Pearson will only solidify his standing as one of the best featherweights in the world, and if that doesn’t catch the eye of the UFC brass, what will?

Bektic would like to thank God for his family, his friends, his teammates, American Top Team, and for the amazing sponsors he has: Jaco, F3 Nutrition, and JW Culinary. Follow Mirsad on Twitter: @MirsadBekticMMA

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