Two of 2020’s biggest breakout stars, it’s only natural that they would end up in matchup conversations, and Chimaev was just one topic of conversation during Holland’s recent appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience.
Chimaev has struggled recently with COVID-19 symptoms, with the virus costing him a trio of scheduled meetings with top welterweight contender Leon Edwards. According to Chimaev’s manager, the undefeated fighter “thought he was going to die” during a recent trip to the hospital.
Though several fighters have been sidelined and multiple fights have been postponed or cancelled by the virus, Holland isn’t convinced that Chimaev is handling the situation as well as he could be.
“You sit up here and say it’s sad ‘cause he has COVID and sh*t like that, but they said I had COVID and we’re supposed to be athletes, and it’s like, get the f*ck over it,” Holland said.
Holland tested positive for COVID-19 one week ahead of a Dec. 5 main event bout opposite Jack Hermansson. He was cleared to compete at a subsequent event on Dec. 12, where he recorded a highlight-reel knockout of longtime contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
When host Joe Rogan suggested Holland may have been afflicted by a more mild version of the virus, Holland offered a flippant response.
“My girl had it pretty good and I was f*cking her the whole time,” Holland said. “So it’s like we all take it different. Different fighters, different heart. Don’t claim to have that heart if you ain’t got it.”
Rogan again pushed back, suggesting that like any disease, some people may react differently to it. To that, Holland brought up NBA legend Michael Jordan’s legendary “flu game” against the Utah Jazz in the 1997 playoffs. Jordan memorably scored 38 points in a 90-88 win over the Jazz despite looking visibly ill during the contest.
“Sh*t, the flu sucks,” Holland said. “Michael Jordan still went out there and won. Difference.”
Holland has called for a fight with Chimaev in the past, but has otherwise been disappointed in his interactions with his fellow breakout star. Unlike some fighters, Holland says Chimaev won’t trade shots with him on social media, and their face-to-face encounters at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas have also failed to generate much fireworks.
“He says he’s about that life,” Holland said. “That kid ain’t about that life. I see him at the PI. I walked in, I was like, ‘That’s my best friend.’ He was like, ‘You want to be friends now?’ I said, ‘F*ck, no. We’re best friends without being friends.’
“They were like, ‘Kevin, there’s a lot of them. They’re gonna jump you.’ I was like, ‘No. I drove out here. I’ve got dildos in the car, I was ready to f*ck ‘em. That boy’s not about that life.”
As critical as Holland is of Chimaev, he made sure to praise him for his in-cage success so far and how he’s won fights at both welterweight and middleweight. The two have a shared opponent in John Phillips and while Holland mixed it up with the heavy-handed fighter before eventually winning via submission in round three, Chimaev immediately grounded Phillips and dominated him before finishing in the second.
Holland wonders what Chimaev will do when he meets an opponent who lacks an easily exploited weakness.
“He’s bouncing back and forth to the fights that make the most sense,” Holland said. “So he’ll go to ‘70 for a fight that makes sense, he’ll come back up to ‘85 for a fight that makes sense. Nothing wrong with it, good management. Fighters who fight like that, very smart fighters, I tip my hat off to them, them and their management and their coaches, that’s great. That’s not me, I’ll never be that, so props to those guys.”
“Smart, smart fighter,” Holland added. “Props to him. But what happens when you can’t go out there and take an easy, smart route. What happens when a fighter’s really f*cking good? That’s why I wanted to see the Leon fight. I want to see tough competition.”
Holland and Chimaev appear to be trending in opposite directions for now, with Holland firmly entrenched at middleweight and Chimaev strictly focusing on getting healthy. Asked if he still wants to fight Chimaev someday, Holland couldn’t help but answer with tongue firmly in cheek.
“No, not me, I don’t want to fight that guy,” Holland said. “He’s a monster, bro. He’s undefeated, smashing everybody. He’s mini-Khabib. I don’t want no problems with that guy.”
Up next on Holland’s schedule, he faces Derek Brunson in a middleweight bout that is expected to serve as the main event of a UFC on ESPN card on March 20.