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Kevin Holland talks short-lived retirement, return: ‘I plan on knocking Wonderboy the f*** out’

Kevin Holland’s retirement wasn’t fake, it was just short-lived.

Earlier this month, Holland teased a retirement from MMA “unless something super-duper magical pops up.” One day later that “something” did arise when Holland was offered a fight with former welterweight title challenger Stephen Thompson for the main event of UFC Orlando. But speaking to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Holland says he’s retirement wasn’t entirely bogus.

“For a second there I was like, ‘Yeah, I could walk away and be happy.’ No stress,” Holland said. “People were like, ‘Even with the last performance?’ I was like, ‘Even with the last performance, I’m cool with it.’ Samurai code. Ready to die at any time. F*** it. Bushido. It is what it is...

“Until I got hit up with what I wanted and I was like, I can’t turn that down. I said if I got something magically wonderful or delicious I would step back up, and what’s more wonderful than Wonderboy?”

Most recently, Holland faced Khamzat Chimaev in the co-main event of UFC 279, where he was steamrolled en route to a first-round submission loss. Originally, Holland was supposed to face Daniel Rodriguez in a featured welterweight fight, but when Chimaev missed weight for his bout with Nate Diaz, the fight card was reconfigured. Rodriguez went on to face Li Jingliang, winning a split decision that moved him up into the welterweight rankings, and Holland explained that he believed the two of them would have their fight rebooked. But when it was announced that “D-Rod” was facing Neil Magny later this year, Holland says that had him rethinking things.

“I saw D-Rod get the Neil Magny fight,” Holland explained. “We had talked about some different things when the negotiations went down for the whole Chimaev thing, and we talked about some things, so I thought this or that would happen, and it didn’t look like anything was playing out, so I was like, ‘Man, it’s been a long road. I don’t really want to sit down for a long time to get the name right.’ I wanted to get right back in there and it didn’t look like that was going to happen, so I was like, ‘If I’ve got to sit down for a while, there’s a couple things in my body I could take care of, couple things I could do, so I’m just going to gracefully bow out of this thing, take my checks, invest, do some smart things, work on some other things in life, and be done.’ I wasn’t going to get out of the USADA testing pool or anything like that, I was just going to be done, for my own sake...

“I definitely wanted that fight. I saw him get the Neil Magny fight, and all due respect, nothing against nobody, we’ve been lined up to fight a couple of times. First time my part, second time nobody’s part, s*** just happened. So there’s some unfinished business that needed to be done. No offense to anybody. I like D-Rod, he’s a good man, but business is business, and if I’m not mistaken the boy has [a ranking] and I was looking to grab what was supposed to be mine.”

Instead, Holland now gets an even bigger opportunity, facing the No. 7-ranked welterweight in the UFC rankings (Rodriguez is ranked No. 14) who also happens to be one of the biggest names in the division. So as one would imagine, Holland is thrilled with this turn of events.

“Oh yeah, most definitely [this is a bigger fight],” Holland said. “I would never turn down a Wonderboy fight. A young Kev, an old Kev, no Kev would ever turn down a Wonderboy fight. I think I can strike. The whole world thinks I’ve just got a right hand, I think I’ve got a lot more than that. Kung Fu black belt for a reason, and everybody’s Kung Fu fighting. So we’ve got Kung Fu vs. Karate, this is old school stuff. It’s fun. It’s very, very fun. I’m excited about this one.”

And as is befitting the man Dana White affectionately dubbed “Big Mouth,” Holland has every confidence that when fight night rolls around, he will add Wonderboy to his highlight reel.

“I don’t plan on going in there and shooting any takedowns against Wonderboy,” holland said. “To be 100 percent honest with you, I plan on knocking Wonderboy the f*** out. I think Wonderboy is a fantastic fighter, I think his style is wonderful, it’s his name, but that being said, Pettis was able to knock him out and I think I’m going to be able to knock him out. Pettis was able to find his chin and I think I’m going to be able to find his chin, and when I find his chin, I think I hit a little bit harder than Anthony Pettis...

“But let’s not get mistaken, a lot of people go out there and strike with Wonderboy, usually look crazy. Geoff Neal, dude can strike really well, couldn’t strike with Wonderboy. Vicente Luque, strikes really well — and these are two completely different styles of striking — couldn’t strike with Wonderboy. Pettis is a crafty motherf*****, and he figured it out... I like to think I’m pretty crafty too, so I think I can figure it out, and I think my Kung Fu beats his Karate.

UFC Orlando takes place on Dec. 3 at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.

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