Erion Zekthi (3-1 MMA) returns to MMA at Shamrock FC 320 against Horacio Escobar (5-2 MMA) following the longest layoff of his career. The two will compete in a main event bantamweight bout for the Missouri-based promotion.
A Long Layoff
Zekthi last fought at Shamrock FC 300 against Jordan Collins, who he submitted via rear naked choke in the second round. That was back in December 2017. Zekthi was training for his professional flyweight debut, which was scheduled for April 2018, but got into a car accident in March.
While he could have returned sooner, Zekthi opted to launch a Twitch stream under the username “The_BootyMessiah.” There, he played video games in front of a small, but intimate, live audience.
“I just found something like, ‘Holy shit, this is a lot of fun to do,’” Zekthi told MMASucka. “And if anyone’s ever streamed, they know how much of a time vampire it is.”
But the MMA bug bit Zekthi once again, which prompted “The Albanian One” to prepare for his return to the fight game.
While it looks like he’s been off for over a year and a half, that’s not necessarily true. Zekthi began training again back in January 2019 in anticipation of two bouts that never occurred. Instead of having been gone 19 months, in reality, he’s been out of the sport for just nine.
Having largely spent the past several months training, he believes ring rust won’t be an issue.
“I think ring rust exists on people that have that mental gap where they need to go through the steps in order to feel like they’re ready,” Zekthi said. “Kevin Lee does this in the UFC; he steps into a cage and tries to get his mind right. I don’t really need that shit. Fighting is all I think about right now. Every day I wake up, and I’m thinking about my weight for the fight, how I feel for the fight and the training I’m going to do in respect to the fight.”
Thoughts on Escobar
Zekthi’s next fight comes against Horacio Escobar, who’s looking for his second straight win. The word he used to describe Escobar was “basic.”
“He’s your generic, tough Mexican fighter where they adopt the style of head down, punches in bunches and trying to land big hay-maker hooks,” he said. “If you look at any of his fights, it’s very basic striking. No kicks of any sort. I don’t even think he can get his fucking leg up high, anatomically. In the cage, he’s just basic. Basic striking, basic Jiu-Jitsu, little to no wrestling.”
Zekthi feels he’s fought fighters better than Escobar in every area of the game. He said his opponent doesn’t have the Jiu-Jitsu skills of Scott Ettling or Trevor Ward, or the wrestling acumen that Demetrius Wilson possessed.
“If you take bits and pieces of all the fights I’ve had, people were better than him in every respect and I’ve fought them all,” Zekthi said. “Nothing will surprise me.”
Zekthi feels Escobar’s best attribute is his toughness, and not in the sense of his chin or how many shots he can take. However, it’s a puzzle he looks forward to solving.
“He’ll be hard to break, and I thrive on breaking people mentally and physically,” he said. “Push them to their cardiovascular limits, and they’ll show you their heart. He’s been in wars with guys, so I know he has no quit in him. However, he’s been in wars to a certain level. I think I will put him at a different level; something he hasn’t felt before.”
The way Zekthi sees it, Escobar’s toughness will only get him so far, and his skill will overwhelm his opponent. Zekthi fully intends to put in a well-rounded performance where he shows everything.
“He’ll come at me with fervor, he’ll want to put me away, and he’ll try to put me down,” Zekthi said. “And that’s where he’ll fuck up. This fight will be a testament to my skill-set and how varied it is. So, this will be the fight: me touching him up whenever I want and how often I want to. Every time he tries to come in, I’m gonna change my levels, drop him on his head, throw elbows, and then he’ll give me his back or a submission and I’ll finish him.
“If he thinks he’s going to walk me down and throw bombs, have fun,” he continued. “It’ll be a long ass night for him. Or a short one. My only regret is that this isn’t five rounds, to really show people the difference.”
Zekthi also pointed to who he’s fought vs. who Escobar has fought. Zekthi’s wins came over Trevor Ward (4-3 at the time of the fight), Scott Ettling (previously 4-1) and Jordan Collins (previously 1-0). His lone loss came to Demetrius Wilson via split decision, which could have gone either way.
He then brought up the fact Escobar’s wins have come against guys who were making their pro debut or were 1-0 or 2-1. One of Escobar’s losses did come to William Joplin, an 18-15 professional.
“My confidence comes from my strength of schedule, and my thought of him has diminished because of his strength of schedule,” Zekthi said. “He’s 5-2, but I would be 7-0 if I fought the guys he’s fought. I would be undefeated. Meanwhile, if he fought the guys I fought, he’d be like, 1-3, maybe.”
If all goes well for Zekthi in his next outing, he’s eyeing a Shamrock FC title shot in October or November.
“I told [matchmaker] Rob Donaker if I continue on this path and don’t get a title shot, it would make no sense because I fought all the top guys,” he said. “Title shot. It has to be. I want to be the champion by the end of this year.”
First, he has to get by Escobar. Zekthi predicts a second-round finish. And while he doesn’t know the method yet, he said it won’t be long into the fight before he does.
“I’ll know how I finish him after the first two minutes. He’ll tell me how he wants to leave that cage.”
Shamrock FC 320 goes down on Saturday, July 13 from the Ameristar Casino in St. Louis, MO. It will be aired live on FITE TV, Shamrock FC’s new streaming partner.