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Kevin Holland had to shelve Proper 12 when fight with Conor McGregor teammate John Phillips was booked

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Kevin Holland has made some changes since the last time we saw him in the Octagon over the summer. For one thing, he has a strength-and-conditioning coach now.

Most importantly, though, his liquor cabinet has been a revolving door. Proper 12 Irish whiskey was the go-to when it was launched by Conor McGregor in September. But things have changed for the time being. Holland said he’s had to go back to old reliable since he’s booked to fight John Phillips, McGregor’s SBG Ireland teammate, at UFC Beijing on Saturday.

“I love Proper 12, bro,” Holland told MMA Fighting. “Me and my boys put down the Jameson for the Proper 12. But we picked the Jameson back up the moment that SBG signed up to fight me. That’s just how it goes down.”

Holland, 26, posted a photo on Twitter of a broken bottle of Proper 12 when the fight was first agreed to. No hard feelings for McGregor, though, he said. And it’s only a matter of time before Holland is back on that Proper 12 wave.

“If he shows up to Beijing, he better ask me about that smashed bottle,” Holland said of McGregor. “And I’ll say, ‘No hard feelings, it was just business, mate.’ The only reason why I smashed the bottle is because I knew it would bring the clout. I love that Proper 12. As soon as that dropped, I bought like five, six bottles myself. But that being said, if Conor shows up and he wants that smoke, smoke is always in the air.”

In his UFC debut, Holland fell by unanimous decision to Thiago Santos at UFC 227 in August. Despite the defeat, “Trail Blazer” gained some notoriety. He gave the much bigger Santos a hard time throughout the fight, which was a back-and-forth battle.

Holland weighed in for that fight at 184.8 pounds. He’s a very small middleweight. Santos has since moved up to light heavyweight. That was part of the reason why Holland has picked up a strength-and-conditioning program. And he’s not calling it a moral victory.

“Let me get an actual victory my next time out,” Holland said. “I was begging my manager to get me a fight before the year was over with, because I didn’t want to go into the New Year as a loser. So I started booking jiu-jitsu matches and all kinds of things — just to get a taste of victory again. Nobody likes to be a loser. You’re only as good as your last fight and my last fight was a loss. So now I have to come back and I have to come back mean.

“And everybody says it’s a moral victory. I appreciate it. Got a little clout off of it and that’s cool and everything. But when people look at me, they’ve gotta see a winner. They’ve gotta see a champ and if you don’t see a champ and a winner, then all you see is a chump. “

Holland (13-4) came to the UFC from Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. The Texas native beat Will Santiago by unanimous decision on the show in June, but White did not sign him. Instead, he dubbed him “Big Mouth,” not liking Holland’s bravado. When Santos needed a replacement on short-notice though, Holland begged and got it. Afterward, White gave Holland his due credit.

“We haven’t spoken at all, but I would like to talk to him,” Holland said of White. “I would definitely like to talk to Dana, because he called me ‘Big Mouth’ and I’m gonna run with it. And I just want to know if it’s OK if I just run with this to the moon and back. I have a feeling that this ‘Big Mouth’ thing can go real far. For Dana White to say nice things about me, that’s awesome. It’s always nice for the person that’s writing your check to say good things about you. But at the end of the day, my job is not done yet, I have just gotten started. So if I can go out there and put this guy away the way that I envision putting this guy away, then I can go back and talk to Dana White again later on and we can be talking about real business moves. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Holland, a lanky 6-foot-3 with power in his hands, is known for striking. So is Phillips. But Holland said he believes the Welshman will wrestle. That’s fine, too.

“I just want the boy to stand,” Holland said. “I know they’re all gonna look at the last fight and say, ‘That’s the safest route.’ The safest route is to go out there and try to shoot for your life and take this guy down. But don’t forget, I have submissions and I will strangle you. So if he shoots for a takedown, I will strangle his neck. These long, deadly arms will not get pulled off of him until his neck is cold.

“If it stays standing, then I’m gonna beat the snot out of that boy. Bloody nose, black eyes. He can take all that back home to Ireland with him.”

Maybe there will be a “Big Mouth” brand adult beverage one day. In the meantime, Holland says he’ll go back to Proper 12 when he returns from Beijing. Or maybe he won’t even have to wait if McGregor makes the trip.

“We can drink Proper 12 the proper way,” Holland said. “A good sip of Proper 12 with the proper man. That would be fantastic.”

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