Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Kevin Holland will never forget the first UFC he ever attended.
Nearly six years before he would make his professional mixed martial arts debut, the future middleweight contender sat in the crowd at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia where he watched Anderson Silva put on a dazzling showcase to finish Forrest Griffin in the first round.
Silva was no stranger to highlight reel performances but the way he ducked and dodged Griffin’s punches and then made him pay with a deadly striking game rarely seen in the sport was something Holland will never forget.
“The first UFC card I got to attend was UFC 101 and I got to watch Anderson Silva take out Forrest Griffin in Philadelphia,” Holland explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “From that moment forward, I knew for sure I was going to fight.”
Eventually, Holland made his way to Texas where he turned his attention from kickboxing to mixed martial arts and that’s when he met a coach that helped develop him into a complete fighter rather than just a striker.
His coach was a familiar name to anybody who watched Silva’s UFC career unfold.
“When I got into MMA, my coach just so happened to be Travis Lutter and if anybody knows anything, they know Travis Lutter was the first person to kind of lay out a game plan of what you need to do to beat Anderson Silva,” Holland said. “That was to take him down, use your wrestling and ground and pound him because he was such a good striker.”
Lutter faced Silva after winning The Ultimate Fighter season 4 but he missed weight ahead of their championship bout at UFC 67. As the fight got underway, Lutter held his own by taking Silva to the ground and using his world-class grappling to stifle the striker.
Eventually, Silva overcame Lutter’s considerable jiu-jitsu skills before earning a second round finish thanks to a triangle choke combined with a series of devastating elbows to the head.
While Holland emulates Silva more than he does Lutter when it comes to his own style inside the cage, the former Contender Series veteran would love the chance to run it back with the legendary Brazilian to help finish what his coach started.
“Here it is all these years later. [Travis] gets a guy who has that Anderson Silva style, like the striking, but now he gets to teach that guy grappling,” Holland said. “I know Uriah Hall has something similar but for me, this young guy looking forward, it’s meant for me to either triangle Anderson Silva and elbow him on top of the head like he did my coach or it’s meant for me to knock him unconscious and to be the true new young guy.”
Of course with Silva’s fight against Uriah Hall being promoted as the former middleweight champion’s final appearance in the UFC it seems unlikely that Holland will get his chance. Even if Silva is successful this weekend and decides to stick around for another fight, Holland doesn’t expect that he’ll get the call but with a fight booked on the same card on Saturday, he’s staying ready just in case.
“If [Anderson] looks good, they won’t match him up with me,” Holland said. “My name’s not that huge, I’m realistic. Unless I go out there and get a Joaquin Buckley knockout.
“Let’s just put it this way, nobody better get sick this weekend. Nobody better get sick cause I’m in there like slim ware.”
Coming off three wins in a row in 2020, Holland could easily call for a top 15 ranked opponent but he’s still willing to take these short notice fights even if it doesn’t necessarily fall in line with the typical path some athletes follow when attempting to climb up a division.
Muradov has far less experience with only two fights in the UFC. It’s a high risk, low reward situation but Holland promises that he’s never going to be the kind of fighter who picks and chooses his opponents.
“Some guys are here for the check and the checks are very, very nice,” Holland said. “Some people are here for the clout and the clout is nice. Some people are here because they truly like to fight. I truly like to fight. I don’t care about the number next to my name. I don’t care what you’re supposed to do politically. I just had this conversation with my manager like I don’t care if technically doesn’t make sense on paper and none of that. Take the fight. Always take the fight. Just take it. You’ve got to challenge yourself. You’ve got to take these chances. I’m here to be the best fighter I can be for me.”
“To me in my eyes, this is a bigger risk than some of those other guys. He’s a bigger risk than some of these guys in the top 15. The reward is no bigger. It’s the same check regardless. I don’t really care. At the end of the day, I want to fight this guy.”
The same can be said for Holland if all goes well this weekend.
He wants to dispatch Muradov on Saturday night and then talk to the UFC about booking another opponent as soon as possible. In a perfect world, Holland would close out 2020 with five or six wins and the opponent’s names don’t matter to him all that much.
“I want them all,” Holland said. “It doesn’t matter who it is. I want them all. I’ll take them all and I’ll take them every other weekend if they’ll let me.”