Darren Elkins is the textbook definition of a grind-it-out fighter. The guy’s nickname, “The Damage,” isn’t even based on him bringing the damage to his opponent. Instead, it is derived from the fact that Elkins always seems to take the damage, but still keeps moving forward. His ability to absorb damage will certainly be tested when he steps inside the Octagon with featherweight knockout artist Jeremy Stephens this Saturday night in Chicago at UFC on Fox 10.

Elkins is one of those forever underrated guys that just keeps winning fights, but never seems to get the hype or respect typically afforded to the major contenders in his division. Similar to Mike Pierce in the welterweight division, Elkins is a guy who isn’t necessarily the most exciting fighter on the card. He just goes out there and wins. That’s the most important part, isn’t it?

Elkins (top) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Elkins (top) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Elkins will step inside the Octagon for the 10th time on Saturday. He holds a 7-2 record over his previous nine bouts, and yet this will be his first fight to ever take place on the main card of an UFC event. Elkins was never even featured there during his five-fight winning streak that started when he dropped down to featherweight.

Elkins’ first two bouts in the UFC took place at lightweight, where he won once and lost once. After a submission loss to Charles Oliveira, Elkins made the decision to change not only his weight class, but some other things in his life.

“When I first started in the UFC, I was still working a lot of hours and trying to train,” Elkins told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “Since I dropped down to featherweight, I haven’t been working full-time anymore.”

The extra time to train and improve his craft definitely showed in the results for Elkins. Upon dropping to featherweight, he immediately launched into the aforementioned five-fight winning streak, which included victories over the likes of Michihiro Omigawa, Diego Brandao and Steven Siler. Elkins was finally on the verge of being considered a top contender when he ran into the brick wall that is Chad Mendes.

Mendes knocked out Elkins in short order last April in San Jose, Calif. The loss still eats at Elkins a bit. In fact, his ultimate goal would be to eventually become the UFC featherweight champion by avenging that loss to Mendes.

“When I fought Mendes, I didn’t perform well,” Elkins admitted. “I didn’t get a chance to show my skills, and I’d like to go out there and prove that I’m better than that.”

A brutal loss like the one that Elkins suffered to Mendes last year would take a lot out of any fighter, but the grinder in Elkins made him keep going. He rebounded with a decision victory over Hatsu Hioki last August. Now, Elkins will look to build on that success when he faces Stephens.

Stephens is similar to Elkins in the sense that he is a former lightweight who got a fresh start by dropping down to 145 pounds. Stephens made the move to the featherweight after losing three straight fights against the upper echelon of the lightweight division. He is now undefeated in two fights and scored a 40-second head-kick knockout over Rony Jason back in November. Stephens has always been a guy that is known for his power.

“He comes out with big power, so you have to be prepared,” Elkins said. “Definitely, the goal is to not get hit with one of those punches.”

Elkins (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Elkins (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

When it comes to where Elkins believes he holds the advantage over his opponent, “The Damage” pointed to his bread and butter.

“I think I’m more of a gritty fighter,” Elkins explained. “My cardio is always a big factor. I wear people out that usually don’t get worn out.”

Elkins will also get the biggest showcase of his career close to home. The Hammond, Ind., native lives about 40 minutes outside of the Windy City. He is a pretty reserved guy, but he doesn’t shy away from his excitement to be fighting in front of his friends and family.

“I’m pretty pumped,” he confessed. “I can’t wait to hear the crowd when I come out.”

Elkins won’t let the extra excitement of fighting at home let him fall into the trap that many other fighters have fallen into when they fight near their hometown. People will come out of the woodwork, and everyone from an ex-girlfriend’s cousin to the guy who sat at the next desk over in freshman English will ask for tickets and want to talk.

“I don’t get distracted,” Elkins stated. “I knew that was going to be a big thing being this close to home, but I keep myself grounded and I don’t lose focus on what the goal is.”

Elkins is a working man who has made fighting his top priority since entering the featherweight division. After four years, all of the hard work and damage that Elkins has taken is paying off with a network television showcase a short drive from his front door. Now, all he has to do is keep grinding.

Darren would like to thank his training partners at Duneland Vale Tudo and everyone that has helped get him ready for this fight. He would also like to send a special thank you out to his wife, his brothers and all of his other family members. Follow Elkins on Twitter: @Darren_Elkins

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.