Mirsad Bektic is an undefeated mixed martial artist looking for his sixth win in as many fights. This Friday night, in Denver, Colorado, Bektic takes on Nick Macias in Resurrection Fighting Alliance’s card that will be televised on AXS TV. The fact that the 22-year old featherweight contender will appear on national television, as he continues great success in the sport, is nothing short of a miracle. Bektic was born in 1991 in the tumultuous Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country that saw a long war with around 100,000 casualties.
Bektic, who now lives in Coconut Creek, and trains at the American Top Team Gym, was just a child when his mother took him and his two older brothers to Italy to avoid persecution, and even death. Living in a refugee camp along with other Bosnians was better than then bombings, the shootings and the mourning that they lived with back home.
“I don’t remember much, but I know it was hard for my mother,” Bektic told The Miami Herald. “She lost both her parents during the war. They were both killed by a sniper. She left my father behind, and her entire family to protect us.”
Bektic and his family remained in Italy for a couple of years, and then moved on to Germany where once again they lived amongst Bosnian refugees, and other immigrants. For a young boy trying to live a normal life, and make friends, it was frustrating and heartbreaking situation to be in.
“You would make friends in these camps, but sooner, or later they were gone,” Bektic recalls. “The goal was to get to the United States, and some families left before others did. Also, you couldn’t do things regular kids do. It made us grow up faster, and become adults before we had to.”
After being more than five years in Germany, Bektic’s mother, Suada, went to the U.S. Embassy and asked them to let them come to the United States. She wanted a better life for her family, and was going to do whatever possible to achieve it.
“I remember her crying and begging to let us leave to the states,” Bektic said. “Thankfully we found a family to sponsor us, and we were on our way to the U.S.”
Lincoln, Nebraska was the place where his family would settle. The family that sponsored them treated them like one of their own, but nonetheless his mother worked a full-time job, while still raising him and his brothers by herself. Being the son of a single mother, working just to put food on the table, meant not being able to wear the best of clothes, and sometimes wearing the same thing on back-to-back days. For a young man going to school in a new country, that often led to being teased and bullied.
“I remember wearing the same clothes two days in a row, having a funny haircut, and not being able to speak English, so obviously I was made fun of,” Berkic said. “I had to play the role of tough guy because I didn’t want to get picked on. I wanted to be accepted, but after a while I grew up and realized I can be my own person. That’s when I started growing up, and changing as a person.”
Bektic played a few sports growing up, but never any contact sports. In high school he wasn’t part of any teams. It wasn’t until a bit later, after a stint as a body-builder, that he found the sport he now loves – mixed martial arts.
“One of my friends in Nebraska did MMA, so I tried it out for cardio, and I love it. I continued going more and more,” Bektic said. “I remember the membership was $100 a month, so I cleaned bathrooms, and swept the hallways of the gym to be able to keep my membership.”
Bektic no longer needs to scrub toilets to afford a gym membership. He’s 5-0 as a professional, and now training at one of the best gyms in the world of mixed martial arts.
“I love American Top Team. It’s a blessing to be here, and the coaches and teammates make me feel more at home than Nebraska,” Bektic said. “It’s humbling to be here at times because I remember seeing guys like Thiago Alves, and Mike Brown on TV, and now they’re some of my best friends. It’s amazing how desires can become reality. It’s like I’m living a dream.”
Although Bektic had to overcome a lot of adversity on his own, it’s his mother who he credits with making him the man he is today, and for giving courage.
“My mother is my hero,” Bektic says. “I can’t imagine going through what she went to, losing her parents, leaving her family behind, being brave enough to come to a new country, and raising three kids on her own. I have great work ethic because of her. I owe everything to her.”