Tim Elliott Embraces the Awkward, Credits Dominick Cruz, Joe Rogan for Style

Scott HarrisMMA Lead WriterApril 24, 2014

Tim Elliott
Tim ElliottGregory Payan

BALTIMORE -- You don't hear most fighters admit to listening to the media. Evidently Tim Elliott doesn't mind taking the road less traveled in that regard.

It's not the only unorthodoxy about the flyweight, who takes on yet another contender Saturday at UFC 172 when he faces Joseph Benavidez at the top of the undercard.

Elliott might have the most distinctive style in the division (or beyond), stalking down opponents from a Keith Jardine-style crouch, unbalancing them by switching stances frequently and initiating brawls with all manner of kicks and punches with little or no windup.

And that's to say nothing of his hyper-aggressive wrestling game, heavy on the scramble phase and rife with the risk of a chokeout from the top or bottom.

"Awkward," Elliott deadpanned when asked to describe his style at a UFC 172 media event attended by Bleacher Report.

The style isn't an accident, either. It's a taste Elliott acquired over the years in a deliberate attempt to stand out and gain a competitive edge.

"I try to do my own thing and bring something unique to the table that not everybody is doing," he admits. "I feel like I bring something in that you can't mimic. I can bring in guys who are fast and good strikers like Benavidez, but I don't think he has anybody in his camp that can mimic the style of fighting I'm going to bring."

The urge is understandable. Elliott (10-4-1, 2-2 UFC) is only 27 years old and four fights into his UFC career, but he has faced a 125-pound murderer's row. Before Benavidez, there was Ali Bagautinov, who defeated Elliott and is now fighting for the title. Before that, there was Louis Gaudinot (a win), Jared Papazian (win) and constant contender John Dodson (a loss). 

Well before his UFC days, Elliott and his coaches made up their minds to do something different. The rightness of the decision, in Elliott's mind, was upheld during his loss to Dodson by someone far outside his corner. 

"Joe Rogan said it perfect," Elliott said. "That [Dodson] was faster and more athletic than me, and I just made up for it with awkward movement. It just kind of stuck with me."

That's the Rogan who handles color commentary for most UFC telecasts. But the style and Elliott's decision to stick with it has even deeper roots which intertwine even further with the MMA media.

Dominick Cruz (left) is one of the sport's most well-regarded fighters and analysts.
Dominick Cruz (left) is one of the sport's most well-regarded fighters and analysts.Eric Jamison

Several years ago, Elliott spent a month with Dominick Cruz, the former UFC bantamweight champion who relinquished the title after a protracted injury layoff. Cruz is now one of the best fight analysts in the business. When he fights, he's also known as one of the sport's most awkward fighters, employing a herky-jerky boxing style.

"I got to go out and train with Dominick Cruz when I was 0-2-1, I think, in my pro career," Elliott said. "One day with him, I started trying to mimic his style as a joke, and it worked really well. I kept it from then on out."

Tim Elliott thinks when Dominick Cruz returns to bantamweight he'll quickly become the champ. pic.twitter.com/93sGdHhr8i

— Luke Thomas (@SBNLukeThomas) April 23, 2014

Elliott said he tried a more traditional game in his last contest. But after that loss, he's back to stay. Saturday, Elliott said, it will be all awkward all the time.

"It's something I can bring that's all my own," he said. "I got away from it in my Bagautinov fight, and it worked to my disadvantage, so we're going back to my original style again."

Scott Harris writes about MMA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter if you feel so inclined.