Luka Jelcic One Step Closer To The Dream As He Makes His Bellator Debut
Lightweight Luka Jelcic will make his debut in the Bellator cage this Saturday when he faces Brandon Gritz at Bellator 190. On the face of things, you may just think this is a man striving to take his record to 11-2, but Jelcic, this debut means a whole lot more.
Jelcic’s, who trains at SBG Ireland under John Kavanagh, has had far from traditional rise through the sport and it began back in his native country of Croatia when he was only 16.
“I had my first fight when I was 16 in the Croatian National Championships,” Jelicic told Jim Edwards of MMAUNO. “They allowed pros to come in though and the guy I fought was 3-0 and he was 22. He was an animal and he’d already knocked two people out bad. I literally had to call my dad to come in and sign the papers for if something happened to me. That’s a time when soccer kicks were allowed and knees and everything. In my head though I believed I was the kid that was coming from the street and that I was the best in the world.
“I thought I was the toughest motherf****r in the world, but obviously I was wrong. I didn’t get knocked out, but I lost by submission and it humbled me a lot. I realized that I had to work hard and there was a learned a big lesson. You learn how to be a martial artist in moments like that.
“I don’t care who you are. In this sport you’re going to get humbled.”
Making the move
Despite the loss, Jelcic persisted in the sport and he made a life changing decision to move to Ireland when he was offered the opportunity to train at SBI by Kavanagh. Jelcic was 6-1 at the time and it’
“I took my chance and I reached out to John four years ago,” Jelcic said. “Even before I moved out of the country I dreamed about how I could make a living out of doing what I love and providing a decent life for my family and two years ago he gave me a chance. He didn’t spoil me, but he gave the chance that I needed and I’m just happy things are going they’re. I won’t ever been able to fully repay what he did for me, but I’m going to try my hardest to do so.
“I’m not there to just latch on to the success of the people that built that gym: John, Owen Roddy, Chris Field, Cathal Pendred, Philip Mulpeter, Conor McGregor. I want to give back and I want to fight for them.”
A brother in arms
This weekend, Jelcic will take the biggest fight of his life to date and at his side will be a man who is just as grateful that he moved to Dublin. Featherweight Dylan Tuke, who currently lives with Jelcic and his fiancé, describes Jelicic as a ‘brother’ and has spoken about the Croatian helped him get back on the straight and narrow after a tough 2016.
Tuke is currently with him in Florence as he prepares for his fight on Saturday night and Jelcic will no doubt be thankful to have his SBG teammate around him as he puts the final pieces of the puzzle together.
“I just wanted to sort out of some of the smaller things in my life like my living arrangements, just smaller stuff like that,” Tuke told Jim Edwards of MMAUNO. “I’m now living with Luka who’s like a big brother to me now.
“I found that I just needed the time to get all the smaller things in my life outside of MMA sorted so that I could go back to loving my training and Luka helped me do that.”
Putting them all on notice
All that stands between the Croatian now and a successful end to 2017 is Gritz (14-7). The American is currently coming off a three fight losing streak, but he’s not a man to be underestimated with wins over the likes of Derek Campos, Benny Madrid and UFC veteran, Melvin Guillard.
Regardless of the man in front of him, the dream remains the same. Win, make money and provide a better life for the people he loves. It’s a common goal, but few have the backstory of “The Hitman” and there’s nothing more dangerous than a man who knows what a tough life really looks like.
“I’m beyond happy,” Jelcic said when he signed for Bellator. “Finally I’m on the way to giving my loved ones a better life.
“I’m looking forward to stacking their bodies up on a pole. All of them. Dead.”