Tim Elliott vs. Iliarde Santos

Combat Press 2016 MMA Awards: Comeback Fighter of the Year – Tim Elliott

It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2016. Throughout the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.

Comeback Fighter of the Year – Tim Elliott

To say that Tim Elliott has experienced a roller coaster ride in his career is probably to do a disservice to roller coasters. So it’s fitting that Elliott’s career appears to be hitting a peak again, and he has the Combat Press 2016 Comeback Fighter of the Year award to commemorate his recent resurrection.

Elliott parlayed a six-fight winning streak on the regional circuit – including a knockout over mixed martial arts legend Jens Pulver – into an opportunity with the UFC in 2012. After going 2-1 in his first three fights, Elliott appeared to be on the short list of possible title contenders in the UFC’s youngest weight class. However, Elliott dropped his next three fights, including a first-round submission loss to Joe Benavidez, and he received a pink slip in 2015.


But as luck would have it, Elliott would still receive a title shot; just not in the UFC. Elliott joined Titan Fighting Championships and in his first fight for the organization, he became Titan FC’s first flyweight champion by defeating Iliarde Santos. Elliott would successfully defend his belt twice more, and it would allow him another opportunity in the UFC – and an opportunity to add more gold to his repertoire.

Elliott and 15 other flyweight champions from regional MMA organizations worldwide competed on season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter, and the winner received a title shot at UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. In a field that boasted former UFC fighters like Damacio Page and dangerous international fighters like Hiromasa Ogikubo and Alexandre Pantoja, Elliott won four consecutive fights to secure his title shot against Johnson at The Ultimate Fighter Finale on Dec. 3, 2016.

Johnson was a heavy favorite, and rightly so since he is considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Elliott was just supposed to be happy to be there, and he actually was. After surprisingly winning the first round against Johnson, “Mighty Mouse” would make a clean sweep of the next four and retain his title. But it was apparent that Elliott was having fun throughout the fight, and his efforts clearly won over the crowd.

Elliott expressed a desire to move up to bantamweight after the fight, noting that the weight cut to make 125 pounds for his fight against Johnson killed him. With talent such as bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, Dominick Cruz, T.J. Dillashaw, Aljamain Sterling and Bryan Caraway waiting for Elliott in his new division, UFC fans can continue cheering Elliott on as he continues his comeback in one of the organization’s deepest divisions.

Other finalists: Michael Bisping, Dominick Cruz

Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2016 MMA Award winners.