When it comes to producing the next generation of mixed martial artists, American promotion Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) is often the sport’s standard-bearer, and at the upcoming LFA 88: Willis vs. de Jesus event, Missouri’s Evan Elder (3-0) looks to continue to prove that.
Elder, 23, will face fellow three-fight veteran Kegan Gennrich (2-1) of Wisconsin at the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, show, which takes place on August 21.
Appropriately nicknamed “The Phenom,” Elder combines natural ability in both the striking and grappling facets of the MMA game with training at some of MMA’s most prestigious gyms.
Beginning his MMA career as an amateur in 2015, Elder compiled a 6-1 record on the regional circuit, competing extensively under the local Shamrock FC banner.
Training at Finney’s MMA – a gym owned and operated by Shamrock FC President Jesse Finney – it was no surprise that a then-teenaged Elder joined the promotion. While there, he showed a proclivity for hunting the finish; Elder scored three submissions and one knockout during his amateur career.
Notably, Elder’s lone loss as an amateur – the only loss of his career to date – came at the hands of future Ultimate Fighter Season 27 standout and fan-favorite Luis “Violent Bob Ross” Peña (8-3).
Speaking to FloCombat in March of 2019, Elder said of the Peña loss, “That loss to Luis Pena was super good for me. Fortunately enough, it was to a good guy. I’m happy he went on to do big things. I think it’s freaking awesome. I like to see anyone doing anything good in life, because you know they’re putting in the time and the work for it.”
Since, Elder went on to train alongside UFC stars like Nate and Nick Diaz, Kamaru Usman, Gilbert Burns, and others during stints at the Nick Diaz Academy and Hardknocks 365 (now Sanford MMA), respectively, even recently cornering Sanford MMA teammate Michael Chandler in the former Bellator champion’s recent bout against Benson Henderson.
Since turning professional in 2018, Elder’s time under the tutelage of the gyms’ elite trainers and rounds with their experienced rosters have proved fruitful; “The Phenom” is a perfect 3-0 as a pro with a 100% finishing rate.
Elder, whose first pro submission victory – a 2019 keylock and reverse triangle hybrid over Tremiere Hollie (0-3) at Shamrock FC 316 – earned him a “Best Submission” of the year nomination from FloCombat, credits his time at the Diaz camp for his improved grappling acumen.
“My jiu-jitsu, in general, has gotten much better since training at Nick Diaz Academy. Almost all of my jiu-jitsu is learned from the Nick Diaz Academy—their jiu jitsu is just off the chains,” Elder told FloCombat.
Elder possesses an impressive ground game – solid takedown entries, a pressure-oriented style, and technically sound positional control – coupled with a flair for the exciting, a stylistic meld perhaps best seen in his victory over Brad Ragan (10-7 amateur).
Against Ragan, Elder snagged an impressive armbar finish from the 6’4″ lightweight’s back with just seconds to go in the first round to retain Shamrock’s amateur lightweight title.
While striking, though still green in some aspects, Elder keeps his composure and closes the distance effectively to take the fight to the mat, his true bread and butter.
But under the careful eye of striking-turned-coaching legend Henri Hooft at Sanford MMA, Elder’s striking is sure to continue to improve by leaps and bounds.
On August 13, Elder announced his signing with LFA, heralding the bout agreement to face Gennrich as putting him “one step closer to fulfilling my purpose, and I believe that is to be a world champion which will grant me the platform and resources to reach and impact the lives of so many,” in Instagram posts.
Elder warned fans to have their popcorn ready, writing, “I hope you guys are ready because it’s going to be an exciting one! Don’t blink, it might be over fast!”