Max Holloway believes two things coming out of his most recent performance at UFC Fight Island 7: Nobody would’ve beaten him on that night, and Calvin Kattar is as tough as they come.
In January, Holloway earned a unanimous decision over Kattar in the first UFC main event ever to be broadcast on ABC. The final tally included a 50-42 and pair of 50-43 scorecards one of the most lopsided results ever seen in the octagon.
For “Blessed,” the decision was a far cry from his previous showing, a second decision loss to current featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski that generated controversy. While some MMA observers believed Holloway wasn’t over that fight, he proved in Abu Dhabi that wasn’t further from the truth.
“You see and hear a bunch of stuff,” Holloway told MMA Fighting. “I heard a bunch of people counting me out of the fight, people saying I was done, this and that. It didn’t bother me. I know where my focus is, I know what I did, I know how to work, the sacrifices I had to do. The only people I had to show what I did was the people who sacrificed for me: my team, my family, my fiance, my son, my coaches—I took time from them away from their family—and those were the only people I wanted to show what this was all about.
“At the end of the day, it was just another fight to me. I don’t care what it is, it’s just another fight to me. People talk, talk, talk and talk. Drama sells. Let them be the drama.”
According to UFC Stats, Holloway landed a record-setting 445 of 774 significant strikes over 25 minutes. Kattar got through a lot of difficult spots in the fight with his grit and toughness, most notably in the second and fourth rounds where he took 230 combined significant strikes.
While many are praising Holloway for his remarkable offense, the former featherweight champion is taking his proverbial hat off to “The Boston Finisher.”
“I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s just some nights—and I don’t know if you watch other sports—but there’s just some nights in other sports when [athlete’s] say, ‘Oh, man, I couldn’t miss a shot, every time I connected it was going over the fence, or always get on base,’ [and] that’s just how I felt,” Holloway said. “That night I was just in the zone. You could’ve put anybody in front of me and I would’ve had that performance for as long as [they showed] how tough they are.
“Shout out to Kattar, he was tough. That dude was Boston strong, man and as tough as can be. It takes two to tango, and I was only able to do what I did because he was standing across from me that night. I just felt good, I felt free. I just felt like I was having the time of my life in there.”
The fourth round seemed to be the ultimate point of contention in the fight as a whole. Holloway landed 141 of 191 significant strikes on Kattar, who was wobbled, but never dropped and ended the round with a smile on his face. No one would’ve complained if the fight was stopped in that frame or between the fourth and fifth, and yet it continued for the final five minutes.
Holloway certainly wasn’t disappointed to go back out there, but he was admittedly surprised.
“Coming out of the fourth round coming into the fifth, I saw him jumping around,” Holloway explained. “I was telling myself, ‘He’s not coming back out for this round. It’s done.’ Then he comes up hopping around, jumping around and I was like, ‘Oh, man! We’re in for a fight-fight,’ so I was excited, I felt good.”
In the aftermath of the pivotal featherweight matchup, fingers were being pointed at referee Herb Dean and Kattar’s head coach Tyson Chartier for not stopping the fight. Chartier, while speaking to MMA Fighting, admitted he was very close multiple times in the fourth.
“The only way to describe it is that I was looking for a reason to stop it, and every time I was about to, [Kattar] would give us a reason not to,” Chartier explained about his fighter.
When Holloway was asked if he thought the fight should’ve been stopped, he said it wasn’t something he would be thinking about as the action is playing out.
“Who am I to say? I’m a fighter’s fighter,” Holloway said. “I’m a fighter, I’m not in there focusing on Herb Dean, or the coach, I’m in there doing my thing. I’m doing my job, and if I start focusing on what the coach is doing, or what Herb Dean is doing, I’m gonna lose control. My objective was to go out there and fight.
“I can see where Tyson was coming from, I can see where Herb Dean comes from, but all I can do is focus on fighting. That’s all I was focused on. I was focused on Calvin.”
As far as what’s next for Holloway following, arguably, the greatest performance of a soon-to-be hall of fame career to this point, he is eyeing a summer return. Whether it’s against the winner of the upcoming featherweight title fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega at UFC 260 remains to be seen because Holloway has a lot of potential options.
It wasn’t just the win over Kattar, it was some of the moments that transpired throughout the fight, such as the fifth-round when Holloway started yelling, speaking with the commentators, and even landing a no-look punch before ducking a flurry from Kattar.
“I remember hitting him to the body and I heard Dan Hardy saying something about numbers, the strikes that I landed, and I told him, ‘Count ‘em up,’ I let him know I wasn’t done,” Holloway stated. “He caught me with a jab and that’s when I flexed, and I talked to him, saying, ‘I’m the best boxer in the UFC,’ and it was just that moment.
“Thankfully, a lot of stuff led to that moment because if Calvin wasn’t as tough [as he was] then we wouldn’t have had that last minute of that fifth round, which was just crazy.”