LAS VEGAS – It certainly didn’t seem like a positive moment after Calvin Kattar stepped out of the Octagon after being beaten – hard – by Max Holloway on January 16, 2021 in Abu Dhabi.
Kattar lost every set to the former featherweight champion and received a nasty beating in the process.
On Saturday at Apex, nearly a year to the day since that beating, Kattar returns to the Octagon to face Giga Chikadze in the main event of UFC Vegas 46.
While Kattar is the underdog – at BetMGM, Chikadze is a -235 favorite, with Kattar at +195 – he doesn’t feel that way. The Holloway fight, he said, is one of those things that happened.
The fighters are knocked out and return in their next fight to win. The difference is, Holloway didn’t take out Kattar. He didn’t even knock it over. This, however, is not unusual as Kattar has never been knocked down in an MMA career that began almost 15 years ago.
Holloway set a UFC record for most strikes landed in a fight, but Kattar took whatever he threw and never fell. He kept coming the whole fight. And while he lost, he gained tremendous respect for his willpower and common sense by the way he played.
Still, he would prefer it to turn out slightly differently.
“We knew what we were getting for when we fought, but really, I’m not proud of being abused,” Kattar said. “It comes with the territory. Like I said, I always knew I was tough and I knew I had a lot of heart. I just think most people found out in the [Holloway fight]. “
Kattar is ranked No.5 in one of the deepest divisions, with only champion Alex Volkanovski and Holloway, Brian Ortega, Yair Rodriguez and Chan Sung Jung, aka “The Korean Zombie”, ahead of him.
He wants the high level victory that will lead him to the Promised Land. He hasn’t given up on his dream of winning a world title. Getting beaten this way in boxing can mean the end of a fighter’s title hopes, but because there are so many ways to win and lose, in MMA it isn’t.
From a confidence standpoint, it might be hard to believe in himself the way he did before the first bell against Holloway. Kattar was then totally convinced that he was going to win and organize a championship fight with Volkanovsky.
Even though he fought hard, well, he was never really in the fight. Holloway was maybe at his best and he gave Kattar a beating.
Kattar, however, insists he left the Holloway fight in the past, where he belongs.
A victory over a hot fighter like Chikadze will be the balm to soothe injuries and get him back on track. His self-confidence hasn’t been shaken, but if he has taken even a light blow, there is an easy way to fix it.
“Get a ‘W’,” he said. “A ‘W’ solves everything. I know when I fought Max they all thought he went 0-3 in his last three games. You just have to go out and win something.
Chikadze has won nine in a row, including seven in a row in the UFC, and completed his last three fights to help him climb to 8th in the featherweight standings. But if Chikadze fails at this point, it’s a lack of elite competition. His last victory against Edson Barboza was the most important of his career.
But Kattar knows Chikadze is highly regarded in the sport and beating a fighter on such a streak will only have positive implications for him.
“He’s definitely a top kickboxer and he’s shown that in a lot of his fights,” Kattar said. “I don’t think he’s fought someone like me since he’s been in the UFC. He did what he had to do with the seven guys [he’s faced], but thinking about saturday i think i’m of a different caliber, a different breed. Saturday, he will feel the difference.
Kattar felt it on the opposite side, and it wasn’t that nice. He seeks to prove that he learned from that loss and that he used those lessons to become a better and more dangerous fighter.
He will have that opportunity against a guy who is about as hot as they have in the UFC right now.