You can call Tim Elliott a lot of things — just don’t call him ‘grimy’
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Awkward? Sweet. Dude loves that one.
Just don’t call Tim Elliott "grimy." That one’s a non-starter, pal.
"I tried to nickname him ‘grimy,’ but he wouldn’t let me," chuckles James Krause, Elliott’s fellow MMA fighter, friend, sensei and confidant. "He doesn’t want people to think that he’s dirty."
He isn’t. Well, not hygienically.
But in the Octagon …
"He thinks of things that people normally wouldn’t do," Krause says. "He’ll do things like punch you in the hand and your knee and your bicep, and it’s little stuff that nobody else is doing.
"He never gets tired. He’s super-tough. He’s physically strong. He’s mentally strong. He can make it where, if you’re grappling or wrestling him, he knows how to make it a fight and he knows how to make things dirty."
As in, style. Not smell.
"’Grimy’ is the word that came to mind," Krause says, chuckling again. "He just doesn’t want people to think he doesn’t take a shower."
Fighting Elliott, UFC’s No. 8-ranked flyweight, is like wrestling a badger in a burlap sack. On Saturday night, it’s Joseph Benavidez’ turn to get … umm …
Oh, what the hell, we’ll just say it: Grimy.
"He’ll have a lot more experience than me," says Elliott, the MMA ace out of Lee’s Summit, Mo., who’ll take a 10-4-1 record into a scrap with Benavidez — 19-4 and ranked No. 2 in the world — Saturday night at UFC 172 on FOX Sports 1. "He’s fought for the title four different times, so he knows what it’s like to fight on the biggest stage in the world."
To reach this dais, you earn every rung on the climb. The 27-year-old Elliott is on the cusp himself, having won 10 of his last 12 fights — including a victory (by unanimous decision) over emerald-haired Louis Gaudinot last August at UFC 164. He’s been champing to get back on a big fight card after a loss (also by unanimous decision) to Ali Bagautinov last November at UFC 167.
That last UFC bout turned into a striking contest with a man nicknamed "Puncher" — a stratagem that played against the strengths of Elliott, a former Kansas state wrestling champion as a prep at Wichita South High School.
"I don’t really try to keep my distance; I like my fights to be close," says Elliott, who signed on with the UFC in April 2012. "I want to be nose to nose with these guys, and I feel Joseph Benavidez is a good opponent for that. He doesn’t back up at all, and I don’t back up at all."
Elliott dances to the beat of his own drum, his own tempo, whether it’s babying his pit bull terriers or rolling around town in a ’68 black Lincoln Continental, a ride inspired by the ’65 model in the TV show "Entourage" and a gift from his uncle.
"It’s not bad. It has a 462 big block (engine), that’s the biggest motor Ford ever put in a car," he says. "I like something that can carry five or six friends in it."
But Krause, a 27-year-old MMA lightweight out of Blue Springs, Mo., is a pretty good bet to be riding shotgun. The pair have been training and sparring at Grindhouse MMA in Lee’s Summit — the gym boasts three current UFC fighters, Krause included — for roughly two years now.
"If the guy told me to jump off a bridge and it was going to help me with MMA, I wouldn’t even stop to ask why," Elliott says. "I’d just close my eyes and (go). He’s just so knowledgeable.
"Really, my skill set is not that great. I’m not very technical. I’m not very athletic. I don’t have very good balance. But he works with what I have (and) he makes it work."
Fire. Tenacity. Like the badger in the sack, it’s the stuff you can’t teach. It’s instinct.
"He can absolutely, 100 percent be flyweight champion," Krause says. "And there’s not a shred of doubt in my mind that it won’t happen at some point. If that’s what he wants, that’s what he’s going to do. He is, pound for pound, probably the best person I’ve ever trained with — and I’ve trained with a lot of good guys."
But nobody this unorthodox. Nobody this offbeat, nobody this original, nobody this … well, far out. Where most guys have been trained to zig, Elliott zags. Where most guys would subscribe to yin, Elliott counters with yang.
"I’m just hard-nosed. I’m awkward," he says. "I do a lot of awkward movements. I switch my stance a lot; I go from my left hand to my right hand. (And) these crazy kicks that aren’t even necessarily real (MMA) kicks.
"It works well, because guys don’t know how to train for somebody like me. They have a hard time finding a guy who can simulate my style."
After all, there’s only one "grimy." And it’s the original, baby.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.