Ahead of Valor Fights 36, “The Bosnian Barn Cat” Cites Training with Scott Holtzman, MMA Lab as Keys to Success

Damir Ferhatbegovic – It’s a name that many MMA fans don’t know yet, and one that they may have a hard time pronouncing. However, if you were to ask those in the know, it’s one that folks need to start remembering.

Ferhatbegovic last fought in April of 2016 at Valor Fights 32, where he knocked out Rob Covington just 24 seconds into the first round. It was an impressive showing from an up-and-coming lightweight fighter who trains out of Shield Systems MMA in Knoxville, TN.

It is through Shield Systems MMA that he has been able to develop his exciting style of fighting. Unlike many young MMA fighters, Ferhatbegovic has had the opportunity to train with UFC vets, particularly Scott “Hot Sauce” Holtzman, who happens to fight in the same weight class that Damir calls home. According to “The Bosnian Barn Cat” the two made the leap into the world of MMA around the same time.

“He’s my main training partner out here in Knoxville,” Ferhatbegovic said of Holtzman. “We kind of built off of each other, you know, giving each other tips along the way.”

“I remember he was working hard every day, and I looked over – I was training kickboxing at the time, and I saw him over there new and started training a little jiu-jitsu as a white belt, and he started doing some MMA, and then I kind of got inspired from that.”

The pair’s relationship is mutually beneficial, but especially so for Ferhatbegovic, who has been able to gain valuable insight into how things work in the largest MMA organization in the sport.

“It’s not just about techniques that he’s given me; it’s about sponsorships, who you need to talk to to get in the UFC, and getting in other big events like Bellator. So, it’s not just about fighting. He’s a really good friend of mine, and any decisions I need to make about fighting I go straight to him,” said Ferhatbegovic.

“He’s a great mentor.”

While there haven’t been any direct talks with larger organizations like the UFC or Bellator, the future is always in the back of Ferhatbegovic’s mind, as well as the necessary steps to take that go along with increased pay and more exposure.

“I’ve been looking at different managers. You know, I think that getting managers is one of the most important things that you can do as a professional. I know for a fact that I’ll be in one of the bigger organizations sooner or later.”

It’s a refreshing take for a 21-year-old fighter and one that will undoubtedly aid him as his MMA career progresses.

One man looking to put a hold on that progression is Kevin Smith, a fighter who trains at ATT affiliate Rush MMA with Cole Miller. Smith last competed at featherweight in 2014, according to sherdog.com.

The two will meet in the cage this Saturday, August 13th at Valor Fights 36, which takes place at the Gatlinburg Convention Center in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

“He’s a great fighter; I’ve watched multiple videos on him. He fights good, he fights smart. But, I just don’t think that he has the fighter’s spirit that I have,” said Ferhatbegovic when asked about his thoughts on Kevin Smith.

“I think I’m just going to dominate him throughout the fight. There’s different techniques that you’ve got to use for different people, and I’ve been drilling that throughout camp.”

Speaking of camps, “The Bosnian Barn Cat” recently had the chance to sharpen his claws at the MMA Lab in Glendale, AZ which has a roster full of professional fighters, including Ben Henderson, Alex Caceres, and John Moraga.

It was an experience that had a huge impact on the young man born in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“It was a whole different ballgame going out there to train with those guys. Out here in Knoxville there aren’t too many top-level gyms, so you’ve got to venture out there and explore different gyms,” said Ferhatbegovic.

“Every day there were like 20, 25 different fighters training. So, you got a whole different experience going out there training with different people, different styles. So, I’ll definitely be back there, for sure.”

Ferhatbegovic will look to use his time at the MMA Lab as well as the time training with UFC lightweight Scott Holtzman to secure his third professional win this Saturday at Valor Fights 36. The event will be streamed live on FloCombat at 7 pm EST.

Will “The Bosnian Barn Cat” feast on his prey this weekend, or will Kevin Smith de-claw the 21-year-old lightweight prospect? Tune in this Saturday to find out.

Ray Higginbotham is a professional writer and avid fan of MMA. For more MMA content and fighter interviews, give his Facebook page a like and follow him on Twitter @_MMARAY.


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