UFC featherweight Calvin Kattar delivered an impressive performance this past Saturday at UFC 249, but like every other fighter on the card, the buildup to the event was a roller coaster.
Kattar got back in the win column with a ferocious second-round TKO finish of veteran Jeremy Stephens on the event’s main card in Jacksonville, Fla. With this being the fourth iteration of the featherweight bout between Kattar and Stephens due to a combination of injuries and a global pandemic, there was bound to be some sort of hurdle to leap over to get to fight night. At the official UFC 249 weigh-ins on Friday morning, Stephens was one of the first fighters to hit the scale and missed weight by 4.5 pounds.
The 32-year-old Massachusetts native hadn’t been made aware of Stephens’s struggles to get to the scale.
“Hell no, I was like the last one to find out,” Kattar told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I had people looking at me and I hadn’t even found out yet. I was just focused on making weight myself at 9 a.m. and Jeremy had already made his way through and was hydrating. I was like, ‘Oh wow, must have been an easier cut for him,’ to my surprise because sometimes people break under [these types of] circumstances.
“Everyone did their part but Jeremy, go figure. Five pounds was a little much and I’m sure he knew what he was doing going in. It is what it is. I’m just glad it panned out the way it did, but to be the first one on the scale and missing weight by so much, taking off your boxers and stuff. Whatever. It worked out in the long run.”
Weigh-in issues and negotiations aside, “The Boston Finisher” got an even bigger scare in the days before the pay-per-view on a personal level within his coaching staff. Add to that the looming drama surrounding middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza’s positive test for COVID-19, and Kattar is glad everything worked out on site.
“My coach, Carlos Neto, he actually tested positive for the [COVID-19] antibody in the beginning,” Kattar said. “We didn’t know until weigh-in day that he was actually going to be able to corner with us. So that was a quick scare. We were nervous. And especially, [we didn’t know] if the fight was going to happen. The last time we got the plug pulled by ESPN. You never know when they’re going to pull the plug, and when you see one [positive], you don’t want it to multiply.
“I’m glad we were the first show. Some of these other shows on Wednesday and Saturday, maybe they’re a little bit more nervous than us. But I think we kicked off the first one pretty smooth.”
To say it was a bumpy ride for Kattar heading into the biggest win of his career would be an understatement. In the end, the full-fledged member of “The New England Cartel” never wavered throughout a four-plus month process of fight preparation.
Now that it’s over, Kattar hopes to heal up a more than likely broken nose before returning to a top-five opponent.
“Through everything that had happened, I wasn’t looking for a way out of that fight since January and I wasn’t going to start now [so close to] fight night,” Kattar said. “We made it happen on our end and did everything we could that was our obligation. We did everything we said and delivered at the end of it.
“I’m just excited for another opportunity next and hopefully it’s a big one. I just want to keep capitalizing on big moment opportunities and see how many I can snowball. Let’s get a streak together.”