Josh Emmett ready to enter featherweight elite with UFC Sacramento win over Mirsad Bektic

Undefeated in his hometown of Sacramento, Calif., home to the NBA’s Kings and one of the best gyms in the world, Team Alpha Male, Josh Emmett will get to make the walk in front of an electric crowd at Golden1 Center.

Emmett will take on Mirsad Bektic on Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 13 in a contest between top featherweight prospects. And Emmett (14-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) is 7-0 fighting at home, as he recalls making the walk time and time again while climbing the ranks on the regional scene.

“It’s little different, but I do enjoy it,” Emmett told MMA Junkie on Monday. “I fought in Sacramento in a local promotion, and so it kind of feels like that again. I used to run around, hustling tickets and shirts the day of the weigh-ins, the day of the fight. Just a lot of commotion, been super busy, everyone’s been contacting me, but I love it. So it kind of feels like that, and that was always a good feeling, because it keeps my mind off of things. It keeps me busy,and I’ve never lost a fight in Sacramento.”

Emmett knows how dangerous Bektic (13-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) can be. Having been briefly linked to the Bosnian fighter on numerous occasions, he knew their fight was inevitable.

Emmett is coming off a third-round knockout win over Michael Johnson at UFC on ESPN 2, his second big knockout win since moving down to featherweight.

“I knew it was going to happen,” Emmett said of fighting Bektic. “This is the third time we were supposed to fight, but something happened, and he got hurt, so they threw out Michael Johnson, and I immediately gravitated towards that name, just because he was such a bigger name and he’s one of the top fighters in the world for a decade. So I knew what that win would do for me and get me right back to where I was at from my previous loss.”

Bektic has only one blemish in his pro MMA career and is coming off back-to-back wins over Godofredo Pepey and Ricardo Lamas at UFC 225. Emmett sees this as a very evenly matched fight and knows he’s in for a competitive matchup come Saturday.

“Bektic and I are really similar in style,” Emmett said. “This is going to be the first time I fight someone that isn’t way taller than me. We’re pretty close to the same height. We have the same reach. We’re both from wrestling backgrounds. We’re both physically strong, powerful, explosive fighters, both with good striking, good wrestling, and good jiu-jitsu and scrambles. I think it’s a super evenly matched, competitive fight.”

Bektic’s lone loss came to Emmett’s teammate, Darren Elkins, in what was pegged as one of the biggest comebacks in UFC history. The coaches at Team Alpha Male have already prepared for Bektic before, but Emmett approaches things in an action-reaction type of manner.

“Yeah, Darren has given me some pointers to look out for, what his strong points are and certain things. But for me, I have no idea until I get in there,” Emmett said. “I give my opponent a lot of respect based on who they’ve fought, who they beat, but I’m a different fighter. I won’t know until I get in there.”

And with a win, Emmett hopes to enter the featherweight elite. He’s already the owner of two highlight-reel knockouts over veterans Ricardo Lamas and Michael Johnson and believes should he win on July 13, he’ll be one step closer to his ultimate goal.

“I do believe Mirsad is a top-five fighter, and I think a big win over him catapults me to the very top,” Emmett said. “With a big win, I want to fight someone in the top three, in the top five that gets me closer to that title. I’m not fighting anyone that’s behind me.”

Prior to his last win over Johnson, Emmett suffered a TKO loss to Jeremy Stephens, a fight in which he took severe damage to his face. The road back was not easy, but working with mind coach Joshua Manuel has paid dividends for Emmett and has allowed him to bounce back with a vengeance.

“I’ve been working with him (Manuel) since I fought in Sacramento, my second UFC fight years ago,” Emmett said. “He’s a mind coach. He trains a lot of special forces, military. He trains fighters now, different law enforcement agencies. We do a lot of visualization. It puts me in these deep trances. It’s like hypnosis. It seems to always work out really well, and I feel super calm. I’ve seen the fight.”

Joining Emmett on Saturday are teammates Elkins, Benito Lopez, Andre Fili, and UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber, who’s coming out of retirement. After all, there can’t be a Sacramento card without the “California Kid” himself, and Emmett saw it coming. He knew as soon as the UFC announced its return that Faber would jump at the opportunity.

“He’s (Faber) in the gym more than some of the pros,” Emmett said. “He lives a healthy lifestyle. While he was fighting he kept that same mindset and habit because what he’s always done is, he would always be in the gym if he was in town. With the time off, he let his body and everything heal. He says he hasn’t felt this good in a really long time, and he’s still super sharp mentally. He’s in great shape.”

With four Team Alpha Male members competing at UFC on ESPN+ 13, expect a sold-out crowd. Emmett hopes to land another emphatic finish to his resume. While that’s what he always hunts for, he’s ready for wherever the fight goes and is determined to make a statement, staking his claim in the featherweight division.

“If I could go out there and hit him with the first punch and finish it, I would be in Heaven right there, on Cloud 9,” Emmett said. “But I know that’s probably not going to happen. Of course I’m looking to go out there and knock him out. I could finish the fight anywhere, submit him, TKO him, win by decision, I don’t care. But of course I want to go out there and have another highlight-reel knockout, and that will for sure get me closer to where I want to go over such a tough and dangerous opponent.”

For more on UFC on ESPN+ 13, check out the UFC schedule.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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