Erion Zekthi (4-1 MMA, 4-1 SFC) will look to resume his MMA career with a win when he meets Dillon Tolbert (6-5 MMA, 5-4 SFC) at Shamrock FC 329 on Saturday, June 26.
Zekthi and Tolbert were due to meet on March 14, 2020, though the Shamrock FC event was canceled as the world entered the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Zekthi called Tolbert a “stepping stone” then, and his perception of his opponent has not changed more than a year later.
“[Tolbert’s] the same as before COVID,” Zekthi told MMASucka. “There’s value in the fact that he’ll show up. There’s value in the fact that he comes to fight. But he’s just a stepping stone for guys like me. He’ll never make it past the regional scene. Guys like me, we use guys like him to get to the next level. By that, I mean, the actual savages. The real killers.”
Erion Zekthi Plans KO Win
Zekthi is plotting a brutal knockout of Tolbert at the looming bantamweight bout. He hopes a violent finish will earn him a shot on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, and, from there, his opportunity in the UFC.
Zekthi, 28, believes he is in the athletic prime of his career and wants to make up for time lost due to COVID-19. Whether it’s in front of UFC President Dana White or not, Zekthi is eyeing a second bout of 2021 in the fall.
As Zekthi sees it, Tolbert is his conduit to moving up from the regional professional circuit to the national professional batch of contenders.
“It’s not [Tolbert’s] fault,” Zekthi said. “We live in a world and reality where not all men are created equal. He doesn’t have the physical capabilities that I do. That’s the problem. Fighting is one of those things where people think a certain thing until they actually get in there. Then they are just hit with the truth. The sucky part about it is you’re exposed in front of everybody and you’re made to know that you’re not good enough.”
Erion Zekthi’s Prediction
Zekthi feels Tolbert truly believes in himself, but in the end, said it won’t be enough to beat him.
“He’s going to get his ass whooped until I finish that fight,” Zekthi said. “It will not be close. I will absolutely blow this man out of the water. He’ll know, when the fight is over, that he should never have been in there with me. There are levels to this game, and I’m a savage. So, he messed up. Everyone in his corner messed up. Someone should’ve advised him differently. When they said, ‘Do you want to fight Erion?’ someone should have stepped in to protect him. But they didn’t, and I’m grateful for that.”
Zekthi plans to hit Tolbert early and often in the first round, calling his opponent “too slow.” He believes Tolbert will shoot for takedowns once he gets hurt. From there, Zekthi said he doesn’t plan to submit Tolbert as he did to Trevor Ward or Jordan Collins. In fact, he’s seeking his first professional knockout.
Zekthi predicts it will happen in the second round.
“Stiff, too. It’s going to be a bad one. I’m going to hit him with something he won’t see coming. It’s not going to be a TKO … If the goal was just to win, I could win this fight in the first round easily. But the goal is to put him away and put him away in spectacular fashion so I can impress people and the UFC. I’m going to set him up to create a highlight reel from him.”
Dillon Tolbert Calls His Shot vs. Erion Zekthi
Tolbert has wanted the fight with Zekthi dating back to last year. Following a 42-second submission over Steven Graham, Tolbert called for a date with “The Albanian One.”
Zekthi feels Tolbert and his corner made a mistake taking the fight, but he understands why Tolbert has been clamoring for the match-up.
“On the local scene, at 135 pounds, there is no one better than me,” Zekthi said. “I have known this. And now, everyone else is starting to see this. People not in my weight class; people in my weight class. With that comes notoriety, and the accolades come with a target. Now, we’re starting to see a shift to where I’m no longer trying to get people to see what I’ve always known. Now I have to prove to the guys who think they can beat me that they don’t stand a chance.”
Zekthi believes he is in a better position to beat Tolbert now than he was last year, largely due to some major injuries he had been dealing with. While Zekthi never had any plans to pull out of the fight, he said the coronavirus outbreak benfitted him from a physical standpoint.
“Compared to how I feel now compared to back then, I’m 100 percent now. I feel like an animal. Nothing aches, nothing hurts. I’ll be as close to 100 percent as possible.”
Zekthi will get a chance to put his improvements on full display when he meets Tolbert on June 26.
“I can do whatever I want in this fight,” he said. “Words cannot describe my confidence.”
Erion Zekthi vs. Dillon Tolbert is set to headline Shamrock FC 329. The card is available for $20 on Fite TV.