PHOENIX -- Few may have known the name Teddy Holder before Saturday night, but one big right hand changed everything. Holder scored a stunning first-round knockout over ex-UFC contender Thiago Silva in the co-main event of WSOF 19, seizing the opportunity on just three hours' notice after Silva's initial opponent, Matt Hamill, withdrew at the eleventh hour due to illness.
"Man, I'm excited," Holder told MMAFighting.com. "I'm holding it in right now -- they're saying I have to go to the hospital and get checked out -- but all in all, man, I'm just jumping for joy inside right now. It was a big opportunity and I'm glad I seized the moment."
It was a storybook night for Holder, an ex-football player who arrived at Phoenix's Comerica Theatre under the belief that he was fighting the lightly regarded Jake Heun, only to end up shaking off 19 months of ring rust and toppling a perennial contender on national television.
"We were supposed to get over here at three o'clock today, and right at three o'clock (WSOF executive vice president) Ali (Abdel-Aziz) called me and said he an opportunity for me," Holder said. "I called my manager, talked to my corner, who was actually downstairs getting food so I could get fueled up a little bit. We decided there's nothing to lose. Go for it. I can knock out anybody in the world, so why not? So I just went in there. Screw it."
All eyes were on Silva on Saturday night, as the Brazilian was to be fighting for the first time since the widely documented legal troubles and Feb. 2014 standoff with Broward County police that led to his UFC release.
Holder admitted afterward that the hours between his conversation with Abdel-Aziz and the start of the first round were the most roller-coaster hours of his entire career. It was only after Silva rocked Holder early with a right hand that the 32-year-old was able to settle into his rhythm and return the favor.
"This is the most nervous I've ever been before a fight," Holder said. "I mean, I haven't fought in 19 months and I was nervous for this before, when I was fighting Jake Heun. I knew it was going to be a good fight. I more than likely knew I could win that fight easily, but you know, you're coming in here and fighting Thiago Silva at the last minute, man, literally hours before the show starts -- it's like, damn, what do I do?
"You think about your career, but then you think about the other side of it too. It is Thiago Silva. He's 16-3. He just fought in the UFC. He should still be in the UFC. So it's just one of those gambles you've got to go with."
It's crazy to say, but Holder will now advance to the finals of WSOF's light heavyweight tournament. There he'll fight the winner of Ronny Markes vs. David Branch for the right to be called WSOF's inaugural 205-pound champion.
Not bad for a guy who was a relative unknown just 12 hours ago.
"(After the fight) I went to Silva and I was like, you know, ‘you're a legend, man,'" Holder said. "You've got to give him his props. He is who he is. I told him, it was a big honor to fight him. And it really was. I have the utmost respect for Silva. He definitely hit me harder than anybody else has, so hats off to him and I hope he bounces back off of this, stays in World Series of Fighting and does good."