Since his second straight octagon loss, UFC middleweight Kevin Holland has been in summer school for wrestling.
Holland has added former two-division champ and UFC commentator Daniel Cormier and ex-welterweight champ Johnny Hendricks to his list of coaches as he tries to round out the skills he’ll need to stay with the UFC.
“Make grappling second nature,” Holland told reporters backstage at UFC 265, where he served as a guest fighter. “As long as I make that second nature, then the schedule is fully active. Every weekend if if you want me.”
Holland has been known for his busy schedule. But in light of back-to-back setbacks that were clearly the result of a gap in his grappling ability, he decided to take his foot off the gas and learn.
Before, Holland said, he’d go through wrestling drills just to get through them. Now, he’s actually trying to be a better wrestler. The incentive is obvious.
“If I fix the wrestling hole, I don’t see too many gaps [in my game],” he said. “Just get better, and everything else will work itself out.”
There’s some ground to make up with the promotion after a stunning 2020 run in which he won five straight and delivered a “Knockout of the Year” candidate. UFC President Dana White was unsparing in his criticism of Holland’s performance against Derek Brunson, the fighter to break that winning streak. But Holland said the promoter inquired genuinely about his wrestling training.
On Oct. 2, Holland will put his skills to the test when he faces rising contender Kyle Daukaus, an opponent who most certainly will try to take the fight to the ground at some point. Holland said he’ll take one more trip to California to work with Cormier and make Hendricks a part of his camp.
For a while, Holland was pretty resistant to evolving as a fighter. He saw no need to change who he was based on what other people are doing. He’s had a change of heart. But don’t expect the talking to stop, or the cockiness to disappear.
“After I get this W, I can go back to being a complete assh*le,” he joked.