Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
You’ve probably heard the saying a time or two. Chances are, the expression is pretty popular with accountants, too. Perhaps it might be an expression that Valor Fights lightweight Damir Ferhatbegovic adopts once he receives his degree in accounting from the University of Tennessee. That is, unless he continues to make mixed martial arts his full-time career.
Ferhatbegovic, 22, came to the United States from Bosnia at age seven. His roots have played a role in his nickname: “The Bosnian Barn Cat.”
“When I first started doing MMA at 16, I was kind of lazy,” Ferhatbegovic told Combat Press. “I didn’t take it seriously at first, so I would usually lay on the side of the mats like a barn cat.”
After coming to the United States, Ferhatbegovic started competing in karate and kickboxing at age 13. He transitioned to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at age 15 and then embarked on full-on MMA training at age 18. Ferhatbegovic, who now holds a record of 2-0, is fighting full-time while also attending school at the University of Tennessee.
“I did kickboxing at first because you couldn’t compete in MMA before you were 18,” said Ferhatbegovic, who has received praise for his stand-up game. “I’m not bad on the ground, but I want to give the fans an exciting fight and you can’t do that when you’re holding the guy down.
“I never did wrestling before, since I still thought it was boring, but I’m working on that.”
Ferhatbegovic has evenly split his six total victories as an amateur and pro between knockouts, submissions and decisions. He trains with Shield Systems MMA in Tennessee and joins a long list of professional fighters who came from the Eastern European region and the surrounding areas to compete in MMA, including Khabib Nurmagomedov, Krzysztof Soszynski, Karolina Kowalkiewicz and legends like Andrei Arlovski and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.
“That part of the world has been very war-torn, so a lot of fighters from there were born fighting,” Ferhatbegovic said. “There aren’t many job opportunities there either, and many of them have no degree. A lot of families just came here with the clothes on their back.”
When deciding to make MMA his full-time career, Ferhatbegovic was quickly introduced to just how much of a commitment the sport requires.
“There is so much hard work and preparation that goes into it,” he said. “Fans just see the fight, but there’s also going through camp and everything about that — the diet, the training, the sleep schedule, everything.”
It’s a commitment Ferhatbegovic is happy to make. He’s been a part of Valor Fights since the beginning of his career, and the organization has helped nurture his growth as a fighter.
“They treat me very well,” Ferhatbegovic said. “They’re always growing with each card.”
Ferhatbegovic steps into the Valor Fights cage again on Nov. 5 against Charlie Alexander. Ferhatbegovic looks forward to competing again after two of his last three bouts were unexpectedly canceled.
“That’s always a possibility, but you just have to keep looking forward,” he said.
Alexander’s last fight took place in February, when he defeated Jason Wolf by unanimous decision.
“He’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu and a good wrestler,” Ferhatbegovic said of Alexander. “But he won’t keep up with the pace I set and can’t keep up with my stand-up. I expect to get a knockout in the first or second round.”
As an accounting major, Ferhatbegovic has to be good for numbers. While competing in the UFC is his preferred goal, he doesn’t consider it his only choice for a source of income.
“I’d love to make it to the UFC, but there are other options,” Ferhatbegovic said. “There’s Bellator and RFA, which both pay well. But right now, I’m just taking it one step at a time and one fight at a time.”
He’s not counting his chickens yet, either.