If Darren Elkins doesn't much care for his placement on today's UFC card, he's prepared to do about the only thing he can to change it for next time.
And that's work harder than his opponent, win and keep moving up the ladder.
Elkins (14-2, 4-1 UFC) meets Steven Siler (21-9, 3-0 UFC) today in what could wind up being an important fight for the UFC's featherweight (145 pounds) division. Both Elkins and Siler are 3-0 in the weight class, and the winner will put himself in position to fight a top contender – and then possibly get a shot at champion Jose Aldo.
So why, then, is the fight opening up today's card at UFC 154 at Montreal's Bell Centre, not even getting a spot on the FX-televised prelims, but instead being relegated to a live stream on the UFC's Facebook page? Canadians being part of eight of the 13 fights helps, certainly, but Elkins knows a win over Siler will change things up in 2013.
"After this fight, (with a win), it should for sure move me up in placement," Elkins said. "I keep getting better each fight and pushing myself to the next level. It has been paying off."
The former state champion wrestler at Portage High School dropped from lightweight to featherweight a year and a half ago, following his only UFC loss, and the results have been perfect. Three fights at 145 pounds, three wins – the latest coming in May against the highly touted "Ultimate Fighter" winner Diego Brandao.
Against Siler, Elkins gets another "TUF" veteran, and one he believes brings a complete arsenal to the table.
"He's pretty well-rounded," the Duneland Vale Tudo-based fighter said. "He mixes it up well, and lately he likes to stand and bang."
Of Siler's 20 wins, 13 have come by submission. so he's plenty comfortable on the ground. Elkins has seen similar ground specialists in Brandao and Tiequan Zhang, and his wrestling base was able to overpower them en route to unanimous decision nods.
And that wrestling background – the 28-year-old has been in the sport since he was 4 – is what he believes will win the day again.
"That gives me a chance to mix it up and decide where I want the fight to go," Elkins said.
More than anything, "The Damage" gives credit to his blue-collar work ethic growing up in Northwest Indiana. That, and fellow blue-collar training mates in the Duneland Vale Tudo stable like Keith and Justin Wisniewski, Josh Shockley and occasional sessions with Eddie Wineland, have Elkins believing that hard work will always pay off.
"Having the Wisniewski brothers has really helped me," he said. "They've been in the sport so long and have fought at the highest level. The region breeds tough, hard-working fighters. Being from the region, my family and my wrestling coaches have always told me the way only way to get what you want is to earn it by working hard.
"And I'm looking to keep moving my way up the division – keep winning and shooting to get myself to the top."
Elkins' fight against Siler opens up the UFC 154 card today and can be seen live on the UFC's Facebook fan page at 5 p.m.