Why is Kevin Holland making the drop down to welterweight?
Apparently he was running out of verbal sparring partners at 185 pounds.
“[Marvin] Vettori blocked me. He couldn’t take the banter,” Holland said with a laugh on Wednesday’s episode of The MMA Hour.
“Paulo Costa blocked me too. So that’s probably why I went to 170. All the guys at ‘85 blocked me, so I was like, ‘F*ck it, I’m just going to of go to 170.’ I need people to pick on.”
Holland is joking, of course, though he is serious about testing the waters at 170 pounds. For the first time since 2017, the 29-year-old is scheduled to return to the weight he began his pro MMA career fighting at on March 5 when he takes on Alex Oliveira at UFC 272. It’s a chance for Holland to insert his name into a new title picture after going winless over his last three bouts — and it’s also a decision that Holland has been mulling over since 2019.
“Right before I fought Brendan Allen, I was talking about doing that and then going down to 170,” Holland said. “Then I lost to Brendan Allen and I was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to stay at ‘85, try and get that back, and then eventually go to 170.’ So 170 has been in the game plan for a long time. When I was a local fighter, I used to have a saying: ‘You want to want to die hungry or you want to die starving?’ Back then I didn’t know how to cut weight, so it was just a bunch of not eating, trying to make weight, right? You get to the UFC, you realize these are big guys cutting weight, everybody knows how to cut weight the proper way.
“As I look around, I see all the 170 guys — they’re 190 pounds, they’re 200 pounds. They’re all heavier than me. I’m talking to Gilbert Burns in the lobby before one of the events and he’s like, ‘Man, I cut more weight than you. I’m bigger than you and I fight at 170.’ Dude used to fight at ‘55. James Vick, longtime training partner, used to fight at ‘55. He always told me I should go back to ‘70. I had a bad cut at ‘70 one time and I just didn’t want to do it anymore. So now that we’ve got the nutritionists and stuff like that, I went to the UFC PI, they said I was pretty green to go to 170 — I was like, yeah, let’s give it a shot. Why not?”
Holland will be an intriguing addition to an already deep UFC welterweight class. He was one of the breakout fighters of 2020 after ripping through a 5-0 year at middleweight that culminated with a vicious first-round knockout of Ronaldo Souza. The streak propelled Holland into top contender bouts against Derek Brunson and Vettori, however Holland was unable to stop the wrestling of both fighters and lost back-to-back lopsided decisions.
He followed that up with a no contest against Kyle Daukaus in October, which ended prematurely due to a first-round clash of heads. Once a planned rematch fell apart due to injury and Daukaus was rescheduled against Julian Marquez for February 19, Holland decided to keep it moving rather than wait for another chance against Daukaus.
“I didn’t want to sit around,” Holland said. “Daukaus is supposed to be taking another fight, so I don’t want to sit around and wait for Daukaus to possibly either, A, win, or B, lose his fight, just for us to get rescheduled. And I was like, ‘You know what? Screw that, bro. Just book me something.’ So we started talking about 170, and yeah, they got me something, so I’m happy with it.
“Now don’t get it twisted,” Holland added, “had [UFC matchmaker] Mick [Maynard] come to me and been like, ‘Hey, we’ve got an ‘85 fight for you, I would’ve taken the ‘85 fight. Whatever comes first is what I’m trying to do. But the opportunity to go down to 170 and actually cut some weight, take camp serious, do some cardio, so on and so forth, will be pretty cool. I don’t even do cardio at ‘85. I eat steaks, drink liquor, eat peanut butter cookies, just so I can stay at 195 pounds so I can come in not so light.”
Holland said he is a fan of Oliveira, whose kill-or-be-killed style has lead to plenty of wild brawls and post-fight bonuses. The 33-year-old Brazilian will enter the bout having lost three straight, but Oliveira is still a recognizable name and fan favorite who’d be a good first win to introduce Holland to the UFC’s welterweight division.
As for his first weight cut down to 170 pounds of the last five years, Holland expects everything to go smoothly.
“I don’t think it’ll be that bad, honestly,” Holland said. “Usually when I’m getting ready for the ‘85 fights, as soon as I start eating healthy the week of the fight, I drop down to like 188 and stuff like that. So I don’t think it’d be hard. I think it’ll be pretty easy, honestly.”