TORONTO - Middleweight Elvis (The King) Mutapcic has waited for his shot at Jesse (JT Money) Taylor.
The two were slated to meet in September at a World Series of Fighting event (WSOF 5) in Atlantic City, only to have the New Jersey Athletic Control Board call off the bout at the last moment, citing pills seen in Mutapcic's locker-room.
The fighter explained it was a heart pill prescribed for his manager but the explanation did not suffice.
Mutapcic (pronounced Moo-tap-cheech) was so upset he asked for an immediate drug test to prove there was no wrongdoing. When they refused, he scheduled his own test at a local hospital, which he said he passed.
The New Jersey commission stood by its ruling, saying they found pills that should not have been there.
The cancellation has affected the WSOF middleweight title since the winner of the Mutapcic-Taylor bout is slated to face David Branch for the inaugural 185-pound title in the finale of a four-man tournament.
Mutapcic remains upset at what happened, saying New Jersey officials changed their story several times on the night.
"It was just a big hassle for no reason," he said.
"It hurt, I definitely say it hurt," he added. "But they say whatever doesn't kill you makes it stronger and I think that's the case here ... I'm definitely ready to get in and get this over with and move on with my life."
Because of the unusual and somewhat confusing circumstances, the World Series of Fighting paid both men their basic purse despite the fact the fight never took place.
On Saturday, the two will try to meet again — this time at WSOF 7 as the Las Vegas-based MMA promotion makes its debut in Canada, at Vancouver's PNE Agrodome.
In the main event, Georgi (Insane) Karakhanyan (22-3-1) takes on Lance Palmer (7-0) for the vacant WSOF featherweight title.
The 28-year-old Karakhanyan has won eight straight since losing to Patricio Freire in Bellator in March 2011. The 25-year-old Palmer, a four-time All-American wrestler from Ohio State, is a member of Urijah Faber's highly regarded Team Alpha Male in Sacramento.
Canada has been good to Mutapcic (13-2). The Bosnian-born fighter, who now makes his home in Des Moines, Iowa, won his last three-fights in the Edmonton-based Maximum Fighting Championship, beating Joseph Henle for the MFC middleweight title in October 2012.
The 31-year-old Taylor (26-9) has won six straight and fought in promotions around the world. He fought once in the UFC, losing to C.B. Dollaway in 2008, and made headlines when he was kicked off "The Ultimate Fighter" for drunken revelry in a casino.
"A lot of people say, outside the UFC, he's the best middleweight," said Mutapcic. "He's extremely good at what he does. If I didn't respect what he does, it would be very ignorant of me and it could come back and bite me in the ass.
"I'm very well aware of what he does and what he's good at. I'll try to use my game and stop his."
In addition to training and fighting, Mutapcic has a full-time job as a maintenance industrial mechanic looking after heavy machinery.
He had hoped to be able to give up the day job to concentrate on training but says that has had to wait.
"Work has been very kind to me so far," he said.
Still, his days start at 5:30 a.m. and he often doesn't get home until 9 p.m. as he wraps two training sessions around work.
Mutapcic was 14 when he left Sarajevo with his family. Leaving a ravaged post-war country behind them, they ended up in Iowa where an uncle sponsored them.
He started fighting on the local bar scene, lying about his age by saying he was 18 on the required waiver. A promoter noticed him and he started rising the local MMA ladder.
Mutapcic, who trains in Des Moines with veteran UFC fighter Josh (The Dentist) Neer, has nothing but good things to say about his time fighting in the MFC. But he says the World Series of Fighting offered an improved contract and bigger stage.
"I don't want to do this for fun," he said. "I want this to be my job. And the World Series definitely gave me an opportunity for me to have MMA become my full-time job."