Calvin Kattar traveled across the globe to take a risky fight against a surging contender and came back home to Massachusetts with an important main event win.
“The Boston Finisher” defeated Dan Ige in the UFC on ESPN 13 featherweight headliner last week and has put himself in a prime position in a loaded, if somewhat log-jammed division.
Kattar earned a pair of 49-46 scorecards, along with a 48-47, to pick up his sixth octagon victory. Although not completely satisfied with how it played out in Abu Dhabi, he wasn’t too harsh in grading his performance.
“I would say a B-minus,” Kattar told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I got the win. Anytime you can learn off a win, it’s great. There’s things I could’ve done to make things easier on myself, but there’s good takeaways, bad takeaways, I was happy with the defense on the takedowns.
“I busted up my hands a little bit mid-fight so I had to adjust with some elbows and knees later in the fight. I would’ve liked a little more volume but I got the job done.”
After dropping a decision to Zabit Magomedsharipov in a rare three-round headliner in November, Kattar responded with a devastating finish of Jeremy Stephens at UFC 249. The 32-year-old signed a new six-fight deal with the promotion upon taking the bout with Ige.
As he approaches the upper echelon at 145, Kattar knows he still has a lot of tricks up his sleeve that haven’t been shown yet.
“I still feel like I haven’t had my best fight yet, which is good,” Kattar explained. “Taking on this next calibur of guys in the top-five, I’ll need to perform at my best. Knowing I’ve yet to do that is good considering I’m getting the job done and catching some wins.”
Outside of the UFC 251 co-main event between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway, several other top-five 145ers—Magomedsharipov, Brian Ortega, Chan Sung Jung and Yair Rodriguez— have yet to compete in 2020 thus far.
That’s just fine with Kattar as he gets the chance to leapfrog those contenders en route to the top of the division.
“That’s always been the plan to be active and let the results speak for themselves,” Kattar said. “Right now, I’m one of the only guys out there—along with Dan—and we got rewarded for that. We got a main event opportunity and you have to take those risks to taste that greatness, fight guys with six-fight winning streaks in order to get those spots.
“It was a calculated risk on our end and we didn’t really stop after the Jeremy Stephens fight and we parlayed that into a big win over Dan Ige. It was funny, it was the 15th back home and the 16th in Abu Dhabi. It was like living in the future out there.”
In the first event on Fight Island, Volkanovski retained his title via split decision over Holloway. Many believed that the former champion should be beginning his new reign, but two of the judges’ saw it for Volkanovski.
In the current ruleset and 10-point must system model, Kattar doesn’t believe it was a robbery and was impressed by both competitors.
“I think Max controlled the cage the whole fight,” Kattar stated. “I think if you scored it like one big round, I think you’d have to score it for Max. He dropped (Alex) in the first two rounds, and the third round was really close. I’d have to rewatch it but I think if you scored the fight as one big round, you give it to Max.
“Volkanovski, you have to give him credit being down two rounds and coming back like that, winning the next three—close rounds or not—that’s championship mettle right there.”
While the rest of the top-five have been inactive, Kattar is willing to keep the train moving. Should the UFC reward his activity with a shot against Volkanovski, the proud member of the “New England Cartel” believes he can give the champ problems right now.
“I think I can make it a bad day for him today, tomorrow, a couple of months from now, or whenever we step in there,” Kattar said. “I feel like I can level up to any opportunity presented to me. The longer they wait, the worse it’s gonna get because I’m only getting better.”
One potential matchup that has been highly discussed amongst the MMA community is between Kattar and Holloway. With rumored matchups featuring Magomedsharipov vs. Rodriguez, along with Ortega vs. “The Korean Zombie,” that only leaves one option for the Massachusetts native.
Whether it’s Holloway, any of the other top contenders in the division, or even an up-and-comer riding a hot streak, Kattar isn’t going to say no to any of them.
“I’m cool with doing all of these contenders a favor and fighting someone else nobody wants to fight,” Kattar said. “I’ll fight any one of these guys. Put me with any one of them and you know we’re getting a good fight. Nobody wanted to fight Dan Ige, nobody wanted to fight Zabit. Stephens is a dangerous fight for a lot of guys and there’s not a ton of upside for the risk on that one.
“Yeah, sign ‘em all up. I don’t care. Like I said, I don’t mind beating all these guys on the way to the belt, so this way, when I get it, they can’t give me anybody because I had already fought them all. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s all the same sh*t. On the other end of all of these guys is the win money so I can change my life and do the things for the people I want to do them for.
“Whoever is in the middle between me and that win money, sign them up and they can all get the same treatment. I don’t need nothing from nobody. It’s just my mentality. Unless these guys are busy competing during a pandemic, I don’t see any of these guys doing anything other than talking.”
Rather than worry about the rankings, or fantasy matchmaking, Kattar is going to focus on what he can control: staying ready for all opportunities that come his way.
“If we’re talking about the ranking system, we might as well be talking about the judging system, too,” Kattar said.
“We want to talk about rankings, now? This is why I don’t get lost in all this sh*t because it’s all bullsh*t. Do I get lost in all the bullsh*t? Or do I focus on training—the only thing that pays dividends—worry about my next meal, getting the right sleep because when these guys get cold feet and pull out of their fights, someone’s gotta step in, and I’m that guy.”