“If only he’d survived that bad patch he was going through, I’m sure this would have given him a big purpose to stick about.”
When Oban Elliot steps into the UFC cage for the first time in Dana White’s Contender Series on 22 August, he will have more motivation than most.
Unable to wear his signature shorts, the Merthyr Tydfil fighter instead sports a tattoo in memory of his father Paul, who took his own life when Oban was just seven years old.
As a youngster, Oban had been taken to various different martial arts by Paul, himself an amateur boxer.
His father would put boxing gloves on Oban and his brother, as they tried their hand at boxing, taekwondo, judo and kickboxing.
Now 25-years-old, with the opportunity to realise a childhood dream, the Welsh welterweight is more determined than ever to show the world what he can do.
“I was a massive fan of the UFC I didn’t really know how I was going to get into it but that was always my dream,” said Elliot.
His first amateur fight was in July 2016, with his professional debut coming in March 2019 after an impressive run with six knockouts and a submission victory in the amateur ranks.
He signed with Cage Warriors, winning his first three bouts at lightweight, before a taste of defeat and the discovery of a heart condition.
Elliot suffered heart arrhythmia, a condition which threatened his career, but with his ECG (electrocardiogram) readings improving as he moved to a more natural weight for his build (welterweight), he was signed off to fight again.
“When you look at the setbacks, especially with my illness and then all the clueless people who didn’t know the ins and outs of it writing me off too early,” Elliot said.
“I had another setback after that, and the way I bounced back from my defeats in the cage was similar to the way I bounced back from my setbacks in life.
“I’ve come back stronger and now I’m here to announce myself to the world in front of the main man Dana White [UFC president].”
“This is what I’ve been working towards my entire life, so I’m not going to crumble under pressure now, this is it.
“I get goosebumps talking about this, I was made for this, the bright lights.
“The noise on the outside has done its best to make me feel like I wasn’t meant to do this, but I’ve always known deep down and stuck with my beliefs that this is where I’m meant to be.”
Elliot trains at Shore Mixed Martial Arts in Abertillery, with Richard Shore and Carl Parker.
The gym has constant reminders of the journey he’s on as he looks to follow in the footsteps of Jack Marshman, Brett Johns and Jack Shore.
“They’re trailblazers. Without them, I wouldn’t be as confident as I am,” Elliot said.
“They’ve inspired me to realise I’m shoulder to shoulder with these boys, I’ve breathed the same air. Hopefully I inspire other people the same way when I’m signed.”
Elliott (8-2) takes on Brazilian Kaik Brito (16-4) in Las Vegas at the UFC Apex, with a shot at a UFC contract on the line, a route to the promotion which has previously been taken by fellow Welsh fighters Mason Jones and Cory McKenna.
Elliot has been in America promoting the fight adorned in a Welsh flag carrying his father’s name, as he does for every bout.
He said: “I stood out there with his flag in Vegas. That was always my mission to get his name out there as my profile grew, so that’s everything for me.”