When Kevin Holland tested positive for COVID-19, and was subsequently removed from his main event matchup with Jack Hermasson, many thought his 2020 would be over.
Fast forward just a few hours later and Holland found himself another booking a week later on the final PPV event of the year against a perennial middleweight contender.
“Trailblazer” will face Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza on the main card of this Saturday’s UFC 256 event. Holland getting rebooked wasn’t surprising ahead of his chance to go 5-0 in a pandemic filled 2020, but getting added to a card a week after the event he was removed from—announced on the same night the scratch was confirmed—was a little shocking.
According to the 28-year-old, he started immediately planting seeds towards the UFC matchmakers.
“I’ll be messaging Mick (Maynard) on Instagram and stuff trying to get extra fights,” Holland told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I’m just bugging people trying to get what I can get.
“So I hopped on and was like, ‘What’s up?’ He was like, ‘You wanna take the Jacare fight or what?’ I was like, ‘Yeah! Why not?’ He was like, ‘Are you sure that you’re feeling okay?’ I told him I felt fine. What do you want me to do to prove it to you? Of course’ I’m taking the Jacare fight. I’ll gladly become the alligator catcher overnight, a legendary alligator at that. I’m lovin’ it.”
Holland’s first main event opportunity was taken away, and Marvin Vettori stepped in to defeat Hermansson via unanimous decision at UFC Vegas 16 this past Saturday. Although most fighter’s in Holland’s position would be disappointed, he has been taking it in stride.
In fact, Holland revealed he likes the switch-up better than the original plan.
“I missed out on that fight, but now we got Jacare and Jacare’s a legend,” Holland said. “If I do say so myself, I’m more excited about this fight than I was for Jack. I wasn’t even excited about Jack. I was excited about a main event. But, Jack? Good guy, but I wasn’t excited about him.
“[If I won] the Jack fight, it would put me up in the rankings but it means I can’t have fun. It was like, If I beat him, than more of these fights would likely be main events; more camera time on you, more publicity to get you into certain fights, it was a bigger package. Beating Jacare, I still get to have fun for a little bit longer. I can still step in and take last-second fights, do this, do that. I like that.
“I can jump into the rankings and I don’t have to be high ranked. Put me in there right at 15 and I can fight 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9 and I can do it all last second. I don’t care but it gives me a chance to fight multiple times. Think about it: if I knocked out five fights in a pandemic year—I did it in seven months—imagine what I can do with a full 12.”
Souza, who recently celebrated his 41st birthday, is hoping to get back on track after dropping two straight, and three out of four. Despite the former Strikeforce middleweight champion on a bit of a skid as he’s getting up there in age, Holland is definitely not taking him lightly.
“He just went the distance with 205-pound champ (Jan Blachowicz) not too long ago,” Holland explained. “His last couple of losses were decisions and the fight we won before that he knocked out Chris Weidman. The guy is always dangerous; always has been, always will be. I don’t care how old he is, but we’ll see if age has caught his number yet and if it hasn’t, we’ll see if I can catch his number. I feel like I can catch anybody’s number so put me in the right spot, right time, right mentality, and it’s going down.
“I’ve got the right mentality going into this fight. If I just stay healthy, stay right, I’m gonna be an alligator catcher that night.”
Much like former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones did in the beginning of his meteoric rise to the top of the 205-pound division, Holland is ready to make statements in every fight. He plans to make another one this Saturday at the UFC APEX.
“Hands and feet,” Holland predicted. “Don’t get it twisted, though, I hear everybody talking that if it goes to the ground, ‘Kevin Holland is done.’ Yeah, I’ve been rear naked choked by Rafael Lovato Jr., step in there against [him] and you’ll probably get rear naked choked too. Brendan Allen, shouts out to him, I don’t take nothing away from him but I slipped on a banana peel.
“Jacare can get finished in any way, any shape, any fashion. I can hurt him, I can sub him, I can slam him on his neck and finish him—I’ve done that before. What haven’t I done? I’m going in there to fight a veteran, an OG in the game. I’m fighting somebody who’s had a belt in a lot of other organizations, just not in the UFC.
“I’m gonna go out there and have a great time. This is exactly what I was asking for. This is what I’ve been begging my manager and everybody for. I couldn’t remember what legends were left and it’s sad that I forgot about Jacare. The legend of Jacare, I’m gonna go out there and take him out. Remember how Jon Jones was coming through and taking out all those legends? I mean, taking them out, just completely destroying them. I’m gonna do that.”
In classic 2020 fashion, if it were up to Holland he would put away Souza quickly and bounce right back the following weekend at UFC Vegas 17 in hopes the other breakout star of the year may want to get back to work sooner than expected.
“It’s my job to knock that out of the ballpark in such great fashion that, the guy everyone calls the last-second king, Khamzat (Chimaev) will want to step on a week’s notice and take back his main event slot,” Holland stated. “But we’ll see how much clout I get after this one because you all know that these guys aren’t fighting anybody unless they got some clout—unless they’re me. Then you just fight everyone; guy showing up on their first day at the job and smoke ‘em.
“Supposed to be fighting somebody else, still go in there and smoke ‘em. Just smoke ‘em like a blunt. That’s what I do. Just smoke ‘em like a blunt.”