“Without a doubt, his strongest point is his mental game,” said Higgins, who has coached Lokteff for roughly two years. “He’s very stoic and strong mentally. He’s confident and relaxed when he gets in there -- a lot more relaxed than you’d expect someone to be. He’s very disciplined when he trains, and on the surface, he takes a loss the same as a win. I’m not sure why that is, whether it’s his Russian heritage or what.”
Lokteff ran his impressive professional record to 11-1 in July, when his rear-naked choke earned a second-round submission victory over Cam Bracewell at a Nitro MMA event. It was the third straight win for Lokteff, who has bounced back nicely from his first setback -- an October technical knockout loss to Sam Kei. Higgins believes the defeat made Lokteff a better fighter.
“I felt like the loss took a lot of pressure off his shoulders,” Higgins said. “I think he felt some pressure to remain unbeaten. After the fight, he told me, ‘At least I know what it’s like now.’ He put that loss behind him [and] just got back to training, and I think it made him mentally stronger.”
The 26-year-old Lokteff, who resides in Brisbane, Queensland, was originally born in Australia. His parents migrated there from China with their families after escaping communist Russia. In 1992, Lokteff and his family returned to Russia for two years; he attended school in Kazakhstan. Eventually, Lokteff’s family moved back to Australia, but he left school at 16 after being expelled and started working odd jobs. He saw the sport of MMA on television and fell in love with it. In 2010, he began training at Integrated MMA and has worked with Higgins ever since.
“I just needed a lifestyle change,” said the 6-foot-1 Lokteff, who has nine knockouts and two submissions to his credit. “I saw [MMA and] thought I could do it, and I’ve been doing ever since. Overall, I’ve been training about four and a half years.”
Lokteff made his professional debut in April 2011 with a first-round knockout of Damien Plumbley and won his first eight bouts before the knockout loss to Kei. He agrees with Higgins’ assertions that the setback aided his development in subsequent fights.
“I try to keep calm, keep my composure and pick my shots,” Lokteff said. “I’m kind of glad I lost because I’m a lot calmer now. I do a better job of keeping calm when I’m in there fighting.”
Lokteff was a middleweight when he started training but moved to 205 pounds at the start of his professional MMA career. He now competes as a heavyweight and has no plans to revisit the past.
“I’m going to stay at heavyweight,” said Lokteff, who has made the regional rounds inside the Nitro MMA, Brace For War, Roshambo MMA, Warriors Realm, Cage Fighting Championship, Days of Glory, Underground MMA and Fight World Cup promotions. “I feel a lot more comfortable at heavyweight. I fought at 205 because I had to, but I feel stronger not having to cut weight. I probably could cut down to 205, but I feel stronger [here].”
Higgins believes Lokteff is close to being ready to venture outside of Australia and mentioned Asian promotions One Fighting Championship and Legend Fighting Championship as possible future destinations.
“All guys come to me with a clean slate and they come out well-rounded across board, and that’s definitely the case with Chris,” Higgins said. “The biggest thing with Chris right now is keeping him on point as the fight goes on. Eventually, he’s going to have to go 15 or 25 minutes and keep it technical and not get sucked into brawling.”
Based out of the same camp that spawned “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 alum and current Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight Kyle Noke, Lokteff has eight first-round finishes to his credit.
“I feel like he’s definitely ready for international opponents,” Higgins said. “Some of these Asian shows, like One FC or Legends, may have some fights for him. He’s not top-shelf yet, but he’s getting there. He’s raw, but he’s had a lot of success considering he hasn’t had a lot of training. The technical side hasn’t caught up just yet, but it will.”