Calvin Kattar made the most of his opportunities in 2020 and will kick off his 2021 campaign with a massive fight against one of the all-time featherweight greats.
“The Boston Finisher” fights former champion Max Holloway in the main event of UFC Fight Island 7 on Jan. 16. UFC President Dana White, after months of speculation and planning, officially revealed on Tuesday that the first three events of the 2021 calendar year will take place in Abu Dhabi.
When Kattar first got the bout agreement, he thought the event would take place at the UFC APEX. The idea of fighting in Las Vegas for the first time excited the No. 6-ranked contender more than the matchup itself.
“I still can’t seem to land a Vegas card, even when it’s 50-50 between Fight Island and the APEX – I can’t even get a Vegas card then,” Kattar jokingly told MMA Fighting on What the Heck. “Then you have Rob [Font] and it’s like his seventh time fighting in Vegas. The kid’s spoiled, but it’s the difference between fighting at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.”
The ultra-focused Massachusetts native earned the opportunity to face Holloway after a ferocious finish of Jeremy Stephens at UFC 249, and a unanimous decision win over Dan Ige at UFC on ESPN 13 in July.
Holloway has lost back-to-back decisions to Alexander Volkanovski, including one mired in controversy in his bid to recapture the title at UFC 251. Many believe “Blessed” did enough to earn the nod on scorecards in his second fight with Volkanovski.
While Kattar won’t allow himself to get overly amped about the man standing across the octagon from him, he understands the importance of the matchup itself. In the end, he hopes his opponent will look at the first main event of 2021 in the same light.
“It’s a good opportunity to show that I’m that guy,” he said. “There’s these guys out there touting Max like he’s still the champ, and I think he may even be still focused on the champ. But to overlook me would be a mistake.
“Any time you fight a guy like Max Holloway with the accolades he has, it is a championship-caliber fight,” Kattar explained. “He might not have the belt right now, but it’s that type of fight, 100 percent. It’s a five-round main event fight and the only thing missing is the belt.
“It’s all about Max Holloway and I don’t plan on leaving it close.”
After a 3-3 start to his UFC career, Holloway went on to win 13 straight fights overall – 14 in all at 145 pounds, including an interim title and three title defenses as the undisputed champ.
Holloway’s high-volume style, along with his size and reach, have served him well over the years. Kattar is a similar fighter, but he and his team believe he has a significant power advantage.
“It’s different when you fight a guy that has similar reach and, not only the reach, but can fight that style of fighting long,” Kattar said. “I think both of us present problems that neither one of us have faced before, and we’ll find out what’s up come Jan. 16.
“It’s coming close, and all it is here is finishing camp strong – dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s – and I’ve been ready to go all-year long. Jan. 16 can’t come soon enough.”
Having a similar mentality as the New England Patriots, his hometown football NFL team, Kattar has always had the “next man up” mentality to his fighting career. Doing all he could in 2020 to keep the 145-pound division moving, Kattar believes a win over Holloway will lead to his next fight being for a world championship.
“I think anybody that wants to fight for the belt should have to go through Max,” Kattar stated. “To bypass Max on the way to the belt doesn’t make sense to me. If you want to be the champion, you have to take out Max Holloway on the way and I’ve got the opportunity in front of me. After Max, [the belt] would be the goal.
“Whoever wanted that opportunity had it when they could’ve fought Max but I don’t see too many people chomping at the bit to fight him besides myself.”
Kattar isn’t giving anything away in terms of predictions. But he believes that the best version of himself is better than the best version of Holloway, and he plans to prove that to the world on Jan. 16.
“I just gotta go out there and be Calvin Kattar better than he can be Max Holloway,” Kattar said. “That will be enough; just go out there, do what I do, perform how I can. If I can do that, the rest will take care of itself.”