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Calvin Kattar: UFC 249 cancellation ‘sucked,’ but ‘I’m staying ready’ for ‘Fight Island’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Calvin Kattar had a feeling UFC 249 was doomed. That still didn’t stop him from getting ready for a potential showdown against Jeremy Stephens. Weeks before the April 18 card actually was postponed, he put in long hours and did everything possible to prepare for the fight.

When he finally got the word the show was cancelled, it was like a gut punch.

“It sucked,” Kattar told MMA Fighting. “I was all in. I was all in from the start, even when I said [there was] 0 percent [the show would happen], I was still training as if it’s 100 percent. I don’t want to adjust the things I can control based off the things I can’t. I always put my best foot forward. Stay in the present with each session, workout after workout, and I keep that mindset.

“I don’t focus too far ahead. I just stay in the moment, working hard, and good things happen when you stay in that zone. I didn’t get caught up in the hypotheticals. I felt like too many people gave into those things, and when this happens, it leaves you upside down and all over the place, and not in a healthy mental state and ready to compete.”

Kattar had just started to believe the event might actually happen. But things quickly took a turn for the worse.

“[The UFC] sent me confirmations on flight itineraries, [and] I was almost at 100 [percent],” he said. “I thought, wow, this is actually going to happen. To be here today with it not happening, and the roller coaster of whether it was going to go down or not, it’s unfortunate the fight’s not happening. But some things are out of your control.”

Fighting at UFC 249 meant a paycheck for Kattar, but beyond his own financial gain, the Massachusetts native looked forward to giving people at home something to enjoy outside of the coronavirus coverage that’s dominated the news.

“I know a lot of people were excited about it happening,” Kattar said. “I was hoping to put on a show for them and give them something to cheer about, get excited about. Bring some type of normalcy back to their lives, because right now everyone is the furthest from it.”

When it comes to the immediate future, Kattar is stuck in the unknown just like everybody else. The UFC did communicate with he and his team to let them know to stay ready, because the show must go on at some point.

“So far [the UFC has] done right by me, up to this point,” he said. “I got nothing to think otherwise. They tried to make the event happen. They did everything within their power to make it happen safely. It just didn’t go their way on this one.

“As far as moving forward, I’m told it’s going to be something about a 30-day wait, and those that are contracted and ready to go will get first come, first serve. So for me, I’m not skipping a beat. This is a lifestyle for me. My goals are bigger than the pandemic. I plan on staying busy, staying ready to go and trying to get a leg up on the competition.”

UFC president Dana White has vowed to help the fighters who might be in dire straits financially due to the upheaval with the schedule. Kattar is confident the UFC will follow through with whatever promises have been made.

“Of course we want to get paid for what we do,” he said. “I’ve been training for 13 weeks, [and] there’s a cost associated with that. I know the UFC will do the right thing. They haven’t disappointed me yet.

“They’re a stand up company that is planning and saying they’re going to do the right thing. I’m going to give them the opportunity to do so while I sit back and focus on the training.”

For fighters like Kattar, it might not seem like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel given the dour mood across the globe right now. But if there’s a bright spot for the 32-year-old fighter, it’s hearing that White and the UFC are currently building an infrastructure on an island were fights can be held in the near future.

White has dubbed it “Fight Island,” and Kattar is more than ready to be one of the first inhabitants to call it home.

“It sounds awesome,” Kattar said. “I can’t wait. Sign me up. We get to compete and then maybe we can even quarantine there. Sounds like a great time.

“It was a nice distraction having something to train for the past couple weeks. Now, we’re hoping for ‘Fight Island.’ At the end of the day, should the opportunity present themselves, I look forward to trying to get ready for that opportunity. Sounds like a great option to me.”