After UFC on ABC 1 win, Max Holloway wants in on Khabib Nurmagomedov sweepstakes

ABU DHABI – Max Holloway is throwing his name into the hat.

Following his dominant UFC on ABC 1 unanimous decision win over Calvin Kattar, Holloway (22-6 MMA, 18-6 UFC) expressed interest in serving as a backup fighter for the UFC 257 pay-per-view next Saturday.

UFC lightweight contenders Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler, and Dan Hooker are all set to compete at the event – four of the five competitors Nurmagomedov (29-0 MMA, 13-0 UFC) recently expressed potential interest in coming out of retirement to fight.

While Holloway wants to be in the discussion, UFC president Dana White, on the other hand, is less keen on the idea.

“I think he deserves to go home and take some time off,” White said at the UFC on ABC 1 post-fight news conference. “I respect it, but yeah, we’re good. We’re covered.”

Despite his boss not liking the idea, Holloway insists he’s sticking around on “Fight Island” and will be ready if needed. In MMA, unforeseen circumstances are not unusual – and Holloway hopes to capitalize should one arise.

“I’m here until next week. If something happens in this crazy, wild sport, don’t be surprised, man,” Holloway said. “Tune in next week to a huge pay-per-view. There’s a bunch of surprises happening.”

Holloway has a history with Nurmagomedov. In 2018, Holloway was briefly paired with Nurmagomedov as a short-notice replacement for Tony Ferguson at UFC 223. However, Holloway was forced to withdraw during fight week, and the bout never came to fruition.

“We’ll see what happens, even with Khabib, you know?” Holloway said. “Khabib is saying that he wants something that’s super interesting. Maybe I pushed him over the edge a little bit. We had one of the best press conferences in the world, I think. We just didn’t have the fight. We could fill that in if he wanted to.”

If Holloway’s aspirations for a Nurmagomedov fight hit a wall, a trilogy with UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski is likely in the cards, according to White, should the champ get past Brian Ortega in March.

Holloway and Volkanovski, have faced off twice before – with Volkanovski (22-1 MMA, 9-0 UFC) winning a unanimous decision and a split decision. Holloway doesn’t take lightly to Volkanovski’s distaste for a third meeting.

“Volkanovski said – this is his words not mine – he said he wants a different fight. He doesn’t want a tougher fight, guys,” Holloway said. “Let that sink in: He wants a different fight. He didn’t say, ‘I want a tougher challenge.’ He knows who the toughest challenge is. He knows it’s me. At the end of the day, I’m not going to force somebody to fight me. I’m going to stay ready and do whatever I’ve got to do and just be ready.”

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Dana White: Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou 2 being targeted for UFC 260 main event


Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou
Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Francis Ngannou might finally be getting another shot at Stipe Miocic.

At the UFC Fight Island 7 post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White answered in the affirmative when asked if Miocic vs. Ngannou 2 was to be the main event of UFC 260, which is expected to take place on March 27.

The bout has definitely been in the works for the March pay-per-view for some time with both sides in talks with the UFC to finalize the fight, according to sources speaking to MMA Fighting.

The March date was first reported by podcaster The MMA Dude.

Should Miocic and Ngannou 2 become official, it will headline a card that already features another recently reported title fight, the featherweight clash between champion Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega.

Miocic and Ngannou first fought at UFC 220 on Jan. 20, 2018, in Boston. The defending champion used his wrestling to snuff out the explosive offense of Ngannou and take a commanding decision win. Ngannou lost a listless decision to Derrick Lewis in his next outing, but has since rebounded with four straight first-round KOs, none of which took longer than 71 seconds.

In 2020, Miocic defended his title just once, closing out his trilogy with Daniel Cormier by winning a unanimous decision to take two out of the three fights in the series. He has successfully defended the heavyweight title four times across two reigns.

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UFC on ABC 1 Bonuses: Holloway, Kattar Pocket $50K for Five-Round Slugfest

Max Holloway’s brilliance and Calvin Kattar’s toughness earned them a little extra bonus money on Saturday night. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

UFC pioneer, early fan favorite Paul Varelans dies after battle with COVID-19

A fan favorite from the UFC’s tournament days died Saturday.

Paul Varelans, a popular 6-foot-8 fighter nicknamed “The Polar Bear,” died after a month-long battle with COVID-19, according to multiple posts on his Facebook page. A person close to Varelans’ family confirmed his death to MMA Junkie. Varelans was 51.

Varelans was infected with COVID-19 in early-to-mid December. Varelans, who posted on Facebook as his condition worsened, had been in a medically induced coma at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

A few days after Varelans’ final update, UFC co-founder and Hall of Famer Art Davie announced he was on a respirator and in a coma.

After a collegiate football career at San Jose State, Varlens (9-9 MMA, 4-4 UFC) made his debut in 1995 at the legendary UFC 6 event in Casper, Wyo. He finished Cal Worsham in the quarterfinals in 62 seconds by knockout with elbows before getting TKO’d by Tank Abbott in the semis.

At UFC 7 in Buffalo, N.Y., Varelans got all the way to the final, as he submitted Gerry Harris in the quarterfinals and Mark Hall in the semis before getting TKO’d by Marco Raus at the 13:17 mark of the no rounds, no time limit final.

Varelans made two more UFC appearances, earning a decision over Joe Moreira and losing to Kimo Leopoldo at Ultimate Ultimate ’96. His final bout was a knockout of Dick Vrij on a Rings card in 1998 in Amsterdam.

Varelans also dabbled in pro wrestling, making a 1996 appearance in the infamous ECW promotion in Philadelphia.

Tributes poured in Saturday as the news of Varelans’ death spread:

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Video: UFC Fight Island 7 post-fight show with Laura Sanko


UFC Fight Night: Holloway v Kattar
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

With UFC Fight Island 7 in the books, MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck and E. Casey Leydon are joined by special guest Laura Sanko to break down the top storylines from the UFC’s first event of 2021, including Max Holloway’s dominant decision win over Calvin Kattar in the main event.

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Early UFC Competitor Paul Varelans Dead at 51 After Battling COVID-19

UFC pioneer Paul Varelans has died after a lengthy fight against COVID-19. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

Dana White after UFC on ABC 1: Alexander Volkanovski can’t deny Max Holloway deserves trilogy

ABU DHABI – Max Holloway has earned it.

Holloway (22-6 MMA, 18-6 UFC) defeated Calvin Kattar (22-5 MMA, 6-3 UFC) in lopsided fashion at UFC on ABC 1 – and according to his boss, Dana White, he’s done enough to deserve a third crack at UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.

“I think we have to (give Holloway a third shot),” White told reporters, including MMA Junkie, during Saturday’s post-fight news conference. “I think we have to. I mean, when you’re the champion, you have the top five guys in the world gunning at you. When you’re the No. 1 contender in the world, you’ve got the top 10 guys in the world. Sometimes, No. 8 is more dangerous than No. 3.

“Tonight, he fought a bad dude that a lot of people thought was going to beat him. He went out and treated him like No. 6, so he did what he needed to do in spectacular fashion tonight. I think that he deserves to fight Volkanovski again.”

Despite Volkanovski’s past hesitation to give Holloway a third chance to win since December 2019, White thinks the circumstances are different. As the champion, White indicated Volkanovski has to realize that Holloway is undeniably one of the toughest challenges out there for him.

“Listen, he’s got this Ortega fight coming up,” White said. “I think for a guy like him to watch this fight tonight when he’s the No. 1 contender – and like I said to you guys tonight, a lot of people whom I respect thought Calvin Kattar was going to win this fight tonight – the way that he looked, Volkanovski can’t even deny Max deserves another shot.”

Before a third title fight vs. Holloway is booked, however, Volkanovski will have to get through next-in-line challenger Brian Ortega. The two featherweights have been booked to fight at UFC 260 on March 27. The 145-pound title fight will serve as the co-main event to UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou 2.

UFC on ABC 1 took place Saturday at Etihad Arena on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. The main card simulcasted on ABC and ESPN+ after prelims on ESPN/ESPN+.

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UFC Fight Island 7 bonuses: Max Holloway, Calvin Kattar earn Fight of the Night for 25-minute battle


Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar | Zuffa LLC

Max Holloway pocketed $50,000 in Fight of the Night bonus for his beatdown of Calvin Kattar in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Island 7 show in Abu Dhabi. Kattar was also given extra money for surviving five rounds against the former champion.

Holloway ran through the rising featherweight from the get-go, dominating Kattar on the feet en route to a one-sided unanimous decision, winning on all judges’ scorecards (50-43, 50-43, 50-42).

Performance of the Night checks went to Alessio Di Chirico and Li Jingliang, who scored big upsets in their clashes with Joaquin Buckley and Santiago Ponzinibbio, respectively. Both winners were also paid an extra $50,000.

Di Chirico was paired up against Buckley, who was coming off of back-to-back impressive knockouts in 2020, including his “Knockout of the Year” win over Impa Kasanganay. The Italian stopped the middleweight sensation with a head kick in just over two minutes.

Li welcomed Ponzinibbio back to the octagon for his first time in 26 months, leaving the Argentinian unconscious on the ground with a brutal left hand in the final minute of the opening stanza.

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Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou Heavyweight Title Rematch Official for UFC 260

Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou will square off for a second time with heavyweight gold on the line at UFC 260. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

Twitter reacts to Max Holloway’s masterclass win over Calvin Kattar at UFC on ABC 1

Max Holloway returned to the win column on Saturday when he beat fellow contender Calvin Kattar in the UFC on ABC 1 main event.

Holloway (22-6 MMA, 18-6 UFC) earned the first headlining victory on network television during the UFC’s Disney era when he shut down Kattar (22-5 MMA, 6-3 UFC) by incredibly one-sided unanimous decision in Abu Dhabi. With the win, the former champ snapped a two-fight losing skid, both of which came in title fights to Alexander Volkanovski.

Check below for the top Twitter reactions to Holloway’s victory over Kattar at UFC on ABC 1.

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UFC Fight Island 7 live blog: Max Holloway vs. Calvin Kattar


Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar at UFC Fight Island 7 weigh-ins
Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar square off in the UFC Fight Island 7 main event Saturday. | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

This is the UFC Fight Island 7 live blog for Max Holloway vs. Calvin Kattar, the featherweight headliner for Saturday’s fight card at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.

Holloway has lost back-to-back fights, first dropping his UFC title to Alexander Volkanovski by decision in December 2019 and then losing an even closer decision to Volkanovski in their championship rematch seven months later.

Kattar seeks a potential title shot with a win over Holloway. The New England native has won four of his past five fights, including knockouts of Jeremy Stephens and Ricardo Lamas.

Check out the UFC Fight Island 7 live blog below.

Round 1: Herb Dean is the third man in the cage for this main event.

Both men meet in the center of the cage and start feeling it other out. Not a ton of action to start but Kattar is clearly looking to land low kicks to Holloway’s lead leg to disrupt him. Holloway is pumping one-twos and landing them as well. 90 seconds in and Max is pushing the action and working body and head, meanwhile Kattar is looking for jobs and low kicks.

Holloway now getting in on the kicking game as well and he lands a sharp combo on Kattar. Max working the jab as well and putting punches on the body importantly. Kattar getting backed up and Max fires five shots into him. Holloway clearly has a speed advantage thus far and the body work is going to pay big dividends down the stretch.

Kattar lands a pair of good right hands that redden Max’s face but Max comes back with a four-shot combo. Holloway really pressing the action early, taking advantage of Kattar being a slow starter. Crisp right hand from Holloway gets Kattar’s attention. Kattar needs to land a big shot to get respect or else he’s just going to get picked apart all fight.

Max feints a right hand and lands a spinning back kick to the body that lands clean! Oof that looked like it hurt. Kattar trying to come back but eats another combo from the former champion before the round ends. Great start for Holloway.

MMA Fighting scores the round 10-9 Max Holloway.

Round 2: Kattar is historically a slow starter but he’s gonna need to find the gas soon because Max did everything he wanted to in the first round, and Kattar’s corner agrees, telling their fighter to stop backing up.

Max starts round two with the combos again though and Kattar is backing up. This is classic Max Holloway right now and Kattar seems perplexed with the speed of Holloway. Kattar’s jab looks like it’s traveling through molasses. Max still looking for body shots too and lands a bid left hook to the ribs. Kattar throws a big right to back Holloway off but Max slips and counters with a clean one-two. Kattar throws a kick and gets knocked off balance. 7 minutes in and Holloway has already landed 100 strikes. This is impressive.

Kattar’s face is showing the work from Max but now he’s at least moving off the cage better. Holloway really firing five and six punch combos that are paralyzing Kattar. Kattar’s corner asks him to fight angry and he surges forward and lands a shot but that just seems to inspire Holloway who lands a good combo. Kattar alrready looking a little frustrated and this may be the best Holloway has ever looked.

As I type that Max hurts Kattarr with a big elbow! Kattar is on the fence and covering up. Max is pouring it on and Kattar is moving but clearly hurt. Another elbow! Kattar is made of some serious stuff because Max is putting it on him and now Kattar is busted open. Anotherr big elbow from Holloway! And another! Kattar is still moving but he’s getting beaten up. Holloway lands a head kick with one second left that has Kattar running away! SAVED BY THE BELL!

MMA Fighting scores the round 10-7 Max Holloway, 20-16 Holloway overall.

Round 3: Kattar looks like he is somewhat recovered but his corner should be quick to throw in the towel here. He’s getting mangled and has had limited signs of effectiveness.

Holloway putting the pressure on to start the round and lands a good right hand early. Max backs Kattar up to the fence and unloads with a combo that hurts Kattar! Katttar clinches to recover and after a moment lands an elbow. They space out and Max charges in and Kattar lands a huge uppercut!! Holloway may be hurt from that! Kattar can’t follow up but Holloway is definitely being more wary now.

Holloway back in pursuit and lands another big combo. Big uppercut from Holloway lands and once again he’s in charge. Kattar against the fence and Max lands a knee to the body. Kattar throws a big right hand that backs Max up momentarily but only momentarily. Kattar shoots a double but Max shucks it off and he’s back on the hunt. Even in the moment when Max isn’t pasting Kattar, he’s still touching him with shots. Not a second for Kattar to breathe.

Kattar’s face is a bloody mask as Holloway keeps marching him down and peppering him. Kattar is landing a shot every now and then but whenever the does it only seems to make Max stronger. Max still working the body and marching Kattar to the fence. Now Max is styling out there, slipping shots from Kattar and letting him know that he did it! Max is vibing right now.

MMA Fighting scores the round 10-9 Max Holloway, 30-25 Holloway overall.

Round 4: Max Holloway should never spar again. He’s looking better than ever in this fight. Props to Kattar though who is still standing.

Holloway goes right back to work early, throwing body-head combos. Kattar doing a better job in this round of staying in the center of the cage though and it’s giving him more opportunity to land shots. Holloway still landing more but Kattar is showing signs of life. Now Max is backing him up and lands a big left hook to the ribs.

Big combo form Holloway has Kattar covering up! It was a body shot from Holloway and now he’s rifling hooks to the body! Kattar is against the fence and badly hurt! Elbows from Holloway now. Kattar is in full on survival mode! Kattar backs him off for a second but Max is just mowing him down. Body shots, elbows, Herb Dean is looking close! I have no idea how Kattar is still standing! Holloway keeps battering him with body shots and elbows. Kattar stumbling around and Herb Dean should stop this but Kattar won’t go down. This is getting hard to watch.

Max briefly backs off and now Kattar is trying to throw heat. He lands a shot but he can’t have much energy left. Max taking a breather as the time runs out on the round. Holloway lands a head kick but Kattar eats it. What an unbelievable round.

MMA Fighting scores the round 10-7 Max Holloway, 40-32 Holloway overall.

Round 5: Sending Kattar back out for the fifth round is a really bad decision but that’s what his corner is doing and Kattar at least looks like he has clear eyes.

Round 5 starts the same as the others, with Holloway marching Kattar down but Kattar is moving better. Nevermind, now Max has him against the fence again. Kattar has nothing new to offer and so he’s still getting pieced up with combos.

Holloway hurts Kattar with another shot and Kattar’s nose looks broken. His face is a mess and now Kattar switches stances. There is no reason for this fight to still be going on. Kattar lands maybe his best combo of the night but there isn’t enough salt in his punches at this point and Max still marching him down. Another spinning back kick from Max lands, and a high kick.

Holloway has thrown 600 strikes in this fight. That’s absolutely absurd. Kattar is too tough for his own good. Big right hand to the body from Holloway hurts Kattar! Now Max is flexing. He looked at the commentary team and said he’s the best boxer in the UFC. Now Kattar tries to land on Holloway who slips the shots and he’s just getting stunted on. Max is absolutely clowning Kattar now, screaming “The Freshman came to play” in reference to Kattar saying he was a senior in boxing. Holloway making a statement with this win and Kattar makes the final bell.

MMA Fighting scores the round 10-9 Max Holloway, 50-41 Holloway overall.

OFFICIAL RESULT:

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Dana White-Khabib Nurmagomedov Meeting Yields No Definitive Decision on Return

Prior to the UFC’s debut on ABC, the revelation of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s next move was billed as something akin to LeBron James’ infamous “Decision.” In reality, it wasn’t much of a decision at all. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

Overeem vs Volkov To Headline Feb 6 Fight Night

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UFC on ABC 1 heavyweights Carlos Felipe, Justin Tafa swing for the fences in all-out brawl

Carlos Felipe and Justin Tafa could each very well walk away from UFC on ABC 1 with an extra $50,000 after the show they put on inside the cage.

Their heavyweight fight, which took place Saturday at Etihad Arena on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, took place on the preliminary card. When the dust settled, it was Felipe who defeated Tafa by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

For the majority of three rounds, Felipe (10-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) and Tafa stood in the pocket. Both men swung major heat in a boxing-heavy affair. A close first round saw Tafa utilize his range and technical kickboxing. The body was a major target.

In Round 2, the high-octane portion of the fight commenced. Felipe and Tafa exchanged big shots, though neither hit the canvas. A major punch from Felipe battered Tafa’s left eye, but somehow the Australian survived. As the clock wound down, the two heavyweights threw defense out the window and swung in a wild, crowd-pleasing exchange.

Round 3 played out much like Round 2, with both fighters going for the finish. With less than 30 seconds on the clock, the heavyweights slugged it out with reckless abandon.

With the win, Felipe extends his winning streak to two. As for Tafa, the loss is his second in three UFC appearances.

Up-to-the-minute UFC on ABC 1 results include:

  • Carlos Felipe def. Justin Tafa unanimous decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Ramazan Emeev def. David Zawada unanimous decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Vanessa Melo def. Sarah Moras unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Austin Lingo def. Jacob Kilburn unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)

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Alexander Volkanovski expected to defend featherweight title against Brian Ortega at UFC 260


Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski is ready to return and defend his title as he’s expected to clash with Brian Ortega in a five-round battle at the upcoming UFC 260 event on March 27.

Multiple sources close to the situation confirmed the news to MMA Fighting on Saturday. ESPN initially reported the contest.

For Volkanovski, the fight against Ortega will represent his opportunity to move beyond former champion Max Holloway after they met in consecutive bouts in 2019 and 2020. Volkanovski ultimately won both fights and now he looks to defend his title for a second time when he returns in March.

As for Ortega, the former title contender will look to make good on a recent showing against “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, which earned him the opportunity to compete for UFC gold for a second time. Ortega came up short in his previous bid when he fell to Holloway in 2018. Now just over two years later, Ortega will set foot in the octagon again with the goal of becoming UFC featherweight champion.

Volkanovski vs. Ortega will be a featured title fight at UFC 260, although there’s a chance a second championship bout will be added to the event. Rumors have been swirling that heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic may defend his title against Francis Ngannou on the same card but that bout has not been finalized yet.

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UFC on ABC 1 Prelims: Joselyne Edwards Downs Yanan Wu in Octagon Debut

Joselyne Edwards View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

Dana White Gives An Update On Khabib Nurmagomedov

UFC President Dana White Makes An Announcement On Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov

Read the Full Article Here View full post on UFC News

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UFC on ABC 1 play-by-play and live results

ABU DHABI – MMA Junkie is on scene and reporting live from Saturday’s UFC on ABC 1 event, and you can join us for live play-by-play and official results beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET (9:30 a.m. PT).

The event takes place at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on ABC and streams on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPN+.

In the main event, former featherweight champion Max Holloway (21-6 MMA, 17-6 UFC) tries to snap a two-fight skid against Calvin Kattar (22-4 MMA, 6-2 UFC). In the co-feature, Matt Brown (22-17 MMA, 15-11 UFC) meets fellow longtime UFC fighter Carlos Condit (31-13 MMA, 8-9 UFC) at welterweight.

Follow along with our round-by-round updates and official results beginning at approximately noon ET for the ESPN+ prelims and 3 p.m. for the main card on ABC/ESPN+.

To discuss the show, be sure to check out our UFC on ABC 1 discussion thread. You can also get behind-the-scenes coverage and other event notes from on-site reporters John Morgan (@MMAjunkieJohn) and Mike Bohn (@MikeBohnMMA) on Twitter.

Enjoy the fights, everyone.

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Calvin Kattar recalls training visit with Diaz brothers that set the tone for the rest of his career


Calvin Kattar | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Calvin Kattar has taken the long road to the top of his division and the trip included one significant detour early in his career.

Ahead of his upcoming main event bout with former featherweight champion Max Holloway this Saturday at UFC Fight Island 7, Kattar recalled the time that he was a teenager visiting the Nick and Nate Diaz in California circa May 2008 with the goal of elevating his game.

“I was 3-0 at the time going out there,” Kattar said at the UFC Fight Island 7 media day. “I was leading into that Elite XC fight and I’d gone out there two weeks out from the fight—probably a mistake in hindsight because it was the hardest week of training and that’s usually when people dial back—but I got, like, three bloody noses a day. I was a kid from Boston training with the kids from Cali and it was all love, they respected the hard work. They blew my mind. I went out there training morning to night, I was sleeping on Cesar Gracie’s living room floor and when came time to get up and go to work, we got up and we didn’t get back until early morning, like three a.m.

“I remember we got in Nate’s gym at, like, 12:31, he was throwing on his jeans and had just finished up training. Which is late as it was, but Cesar said he had me coming in, ‘You want to give this kid some work,’ and he’s like, ‘Sh*t, alright.’ He just goes, takes off his jeans, throws his sh*t back on, just a G, man, wanting to work. That’s what it was like out there, these guys just got to work 24/7, the gym was open all day for the fighters and the gym I was at at the time was only open 6-8 p.m. You can’t really make it that far with that level of commitment to the lifestyle and I made the necessary changes and it definitely set the tone for the way I train moving forward from that day.”

Kattar worked with both Diaz brothers while also traveling around with them to various gyms. On one occasion, they visited a boxing gym in Oakland and Kattar got a firsthand glimpse of boxing champion Andre Ward. That episode combined with other lessons learned from the Diaz team had Kattar thinking that he might need to permanently relocate if he was going to take his career to the next level.

He headed back east for a scheduled fight with James Jones at an Elite XC show in New Jersey, then the biggest opportunity of Kattar’s career. While he would end up suffering his first defeat, Kattar now knew the level of commitment required to be a standout MMA fighter and he went on to win 13 of his next 14 fights before joining the UFC in 2017.

“I remember it was really cool, we were going to the Oakland boxing gym with Nick and Nate, and we walk in, Andre Ward’s hitting the heavy bag,” Kattar said. “Virgil Hunter’s there, his coach, telling him, ‘Pick it up, pick it up.’ He’s like, ‘I can knock it out now,’ he’s just ripping the bag. I’m just like, ‘Holy sh*t,’ this is wild, I’m 19 years old. Do I got to move from New England to make it in this game? Is that what I gotta do? Do I gotta leave my whole family? I’m tight with my family and it’s like, do I gotta uproot everything that I’ve ever known to go make it in this game?

“Credit to my team, we finally found each other, developed what we think, that you can develop a small camp from New England and make it to the highest level of the sport. Right now, you’ve got Rob Font, No. 5 in the world; Tyson Chartier, my coach-manager, getting Coach of the Year; and I’m No. 6 knocking on No. 1’s door. So it’s a credit to my team and everyone from New England knowing that you don’t have to leave the east coast just to make it in this game.”

Fast forward to today and Kattar and Font, proud members of the “New England Cartel,” are both headed towards a potential title shot. Kattar won four of his past five fights to set up a duel with Holloway, while Font is coming off of a first-round finish of Marlon Moraes that has vaulted him into the top-10 of the bantamweight division.

Kattar doesn’t know if he could have earned legitimate contender status sooner, but he feels like he’s where he’s supposed to be now.

“It’s been like a decade and a half, like 15 years, it’s been a long road,” Kattar said. “But I feel like I’m ready for it now. I feel like it is the right time, if it would have come earlier I’m not so sure I would have handled it right. A lot of distractions. Really, I think with the pandemic, for me, it’s really allowed me to focus and isolate my priorities and what’s important in my life and I just tripled down on it all 2020 and it’s paying dividends.

“It’s a great time, this is a great checkpoint for me and my team, putting in the work for 15 years like I said and finally getting the opportunities I feel like we deserve.”

Even during a 2020 campaign that was difficult for everyone due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kattar makes no excuses and he’s still training with a fire that would make the Diaz brothers proud.

“I dealt with the pandemic too,” Kattar said in reference to other featherweights who spent 2020 on the sidelines. “I was training out of my garage with my brother and my mom doing strength and conditioning with a 40-pound sandbag, or rice bag, or something like that. It’s the biggest weight I had to prepare. I’m just trying to find a way.

“My reasons to achieve my goals are far bigger than my excuses and I think that’s earned me a shot with Max Holloway to get that No. 1 contender shot.”

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