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SFC 300: Zekthi - Motivated to Hurt

By Matt Frazier | Knuckle Junkies

Love him or hate him, Erion Zekthi has become one of the most outspoken and controversial fighters to come out of St. Louis in recent years.

He's young, brash, and except for a split-decision loss to Demetrius Wilson, has been nearly flawless in his MMA endeavors.

Zekthi made the jump to the professional league in September of 2016, a second-round submission victory over Trevor Ward, three months later he took on Wilson in a gritty, back and forth wrestling-heavy fight that ended with the judges split. In June he faced Scott Ettling in yet another split decision, this time with Zekthi getting his hand raises and improving to 2-1 as a pro.

Now almost six years to the day of when he first entered the gym, Zekthi faces Jordan Collins at Shamrock FC 300 at River City Casino.

How would you sum up your MMA journey so far and how do you feel going into this fight?

I started fighting when I was 19, and I feel like I've done nothing but grow.

In my honest opinion, I feel like my body is still getting better. It hasn't hit that stage where it's starting to deteriorate, which is good. At the same time, I know that 28-32 is what everyone expects to be their prime. I think because I am taking care of my body and I've never abused my body, and I've never taken drugs or performance enhancers. I've never popped my levels and shot my testosterone up where it shouldn't have been. Everything with me has been natural, so I think as long as I continue to work hard and keep my body clean, I should be good.

As an amateur, you would often disappear from the competitive scene for months at a time, but you've been more consistent as a professional.

The reason I fought that way as an amateur was because of school. I would try to clump fights up when I could like on breaks in the winter and summer. The first year I fought I fought like three times that summer. It wasn't like an 'oh I feel like fighting now' it was more of this is only when I can legitimately put in the time and have a fight. There were a couple of times when I took a short notice fight, but overall I try and give it the courtesy it deserves.

As a pro, it's a little different. When I was coming up as an amateur there were several different promotions like Jim Jenkins, Cage Warriors, Nemesis, Fight Hard, Shamrock. Now I just fight for Shamrock, and the consistency comes when they call me. I've never told them no for a fight. My fighting schedule has literally been, every time they've called me I said yes.

After the fight with Ettling, you left the Wolves Den a team you were with since their beginning, and before that, you bounced around a bit.

The Wolves Den of all the gyms I've been to was definitely the most complete gym. It wasn't like I wanted to leave. All the other gyms I wanted to leave, they just weren't the right fit for me. This one came out of a physical necessity. I moved, and I just can't drive an hour and 10 minutes one way to train. It wasn't like I really wanted to. I just had to.

I've been to almost every gym in St. Louis. I've been to Berger's, I've been to MCS. I was at St. Charles, I've been to both CMMA here in St. Louis and in Granite City. I've been to Wolves' Den, and now I'm at Finney's. I've been hopping around throughout my career.

And how has your training been at Finney's?

Finney's is a well-oiled machine. I wouldn't call Finney's a fight gym. I'd call it a training center.

So you don't have a coach per se?

Well, first of all, I've never really needed that. Even at the Wolves Den I never got that. I don't need someone to micromanage me, and when someone tries to it pisses me off. I know what I need to do, I just need the bodies and the people there to do it. When I first started MMA, I did it in the basement of a pizzeria. I would come in an hour early before anyone else just to get bag work in because I had never thrown punches in my life.

You've mentioned in some other interviews that your motivation hasn't always been there at times.

I fight because I want to win. Sometimes the want isn't as strong as it should be. I have my moments like everyone else. I think the difference between me and everybody else is that I don't do this for the money. Even if I made it to the UFC or Bellator, I wouldn't quit my job. It'd have to be an extreme amount of money before I could say ok this is now something I can use to live.

I'm still competitive and still young. I want to make it there before I'm done competing, but I'll be honest my resolve for wanting to be a world champion or whatever is slowly but surely depleting. Now it's just about staying competitive. I don't think there's anything stopping me from getting there. I just don't have the same fervor. I'm making more money in my professional life, and that's putting fighting in a different light. Also, I see how much money is being made outside of fighting with the promoters, and management companies, and I think it's gross.

The war of words on social media has seemingly picked up in recent weeks. Has that helped you get motivated?

I would say this opponent was definitely hard to get up for. I'm not taking Jordan Collins lightly. I still train hard for everybody. The difference is, I know that competitively he's not on the same level as the people I've been fighting. If you take Cortavious, Trevor, Scott and Demetrius. These are all well-touted fighters on the local level. Collins is not up on that level.

I was really hitting that plateau, and then the video came out, and he was talking all that good shit. I get it. I got a mouth on me. I don't think there's a lot people can say other than that they don't like me. They can't knock my skill set because I've gone in there and fought the best. They can't say I'm sheltered because look at my strength of schedule.

When he went out and started running his mouth, that really lit a fire under my ass. I'm motivated now to hurt him, not just win the fight but to hurt him. I want him to know he fucked up.

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