KOTC Canadian MW Champ Says Friday Night Main Event Bout With Hawkes Could Very Well Be his Last
If more fighters lived by the creed of Elmer Waterhen, mixed martial arts might have become more about fighting the best and testing skill versus skill, and less about protecting records and cherry-picking opponents.
“I don’t care what people think about me. I love to fight and I’ll fight anyone anywhere. I fought [number three ranked UFC welterweight and former KOTC welterweight champion] Rory MacDonald on 48 hours notice,” the 39-year-old Saskatchewan native points out. “I don’t pick my opponents. I fight to test myself against the best. Even if I have a 99 percent chance of losing, there’s still the one percent chance that I could win.”
For the self-taught fighter who began training at age 29, fighting was rehabilitative. He believes that the happenstance that led to him finding mixed martial arts came from a higher power.
“I was walking down the street in Saskatoon in 2003, and I was praying to God to help me get away from drugs and alcohol, and a flyer blew right into my path on the sidewalk. It said, ‘Want to fight?’” Waterhen recalls. “I took that as a sign that this was what I was supposed to do. I started training the next day and have been at it ever since.”
10 years and 36 (six amateur and 31 pro) fights later, the King of the Cage Canadian middleweight champion will likely fight for the last time Friday night as he takes on Lindsay Hawkes in a 180-pound catchweight bout in the main event at KOTC: Out Cold in Cold Lake, Alberta. It’s fitting that “The Warrior” will be pulling on the familiar yellow gloves for his record twenty-sixth KOTC Canada bout.
“When I met [KOTC Canada president] Ken Kupsch in 2005, he told me that if I fought well and enjoyed fighting for him, I would always have a home with King of the Cage. I really enjoyed fighting for [the promotion],” he fondly remembers. “I don’t have the best record, and they always gave me good fights so I could prove myself, and I think I did that by being entertaining and by winning the middleweight title.”
Although he isn’t closing the door on his MMA career completely and decisively, Waterhen, who is planning to attend university in the New Year to become an addictions counselor so he can help those like him who have faced a dangerous crossroads, says that life may prevent him from competing again.
“I’m going to move back to my reservation when I’m done university in two years. I’m hoping that I can help not only people who live there, but people from any culture who need help from someone with firsthand knowledge, whose been there with the struggle with drugs and the bottle,” explains Waterhen. “I love fighting, but it’s always just been a hobby to me. That being said, I’ll fight anyone. If I got a call tomorrow that the UFC couldn’t find someone to fight Vitor Belfort, I would take the fight. Even if I lost that fight I would never regret not having tested myself against the best opponents I could.
And test himself against the best opponents available he did.
Besides MacDonald, who is in line for a title shot if he gets past Robbie Lawler Saturday night, Waterhen’s fight resume includes notables like number one UFC lightweight contender TJ Grant, former UFC middleweight Jesse Bongfeldt, and Rings and Strikeforce vet Falaniko Vitale.
Although all three challenged him in different ways, Waterhen points to two other bouts when asked which one was his favourite, and which was his toughest fight of his career.
My favourite fight was against Jacob MacDonald. He was a friend and I knew him well, which made it very tough to punch him in the face. But we put our friendship aside that night and we fought and we were still friends afterwards. He passed away a little while ago,” Waterhen solemnly points out. “My toughest fight was against a fellow native by the name of Victor Daychief. We went to war, and after that fight I vowed to myself that I would never fight another [aboriginal] fighter. We bring out the warriors in each other.“
As far as his imminent and probably final career bout against Hawkes Friday night goes, Waterhen says it’s just another fight.
“I think he asked for the fight. I’m not sure. I’ve never picked any of my opponents. I just take whoever I’m offered. I’ve never been one to [smack] talk. It just makes you look bad. I’m just going to go out fighting like I always do,” he says. “Hopefully I win and entertain the fans. I’ll leave it in God’s hands like I will my decision to retire or not retire.”