Kevin Holland still has sour feelings about how the latest chapter of his career unfolded, and he’s uncertain about the future going into UFC on ESPN 42.
Holland (23-8 MMA, 9-5 UFC) faces Stephen Thompson (16-6-1 MMA, 11-6-1 UFC) in Saturday’s welterweight main event at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. The card airs on ESPN following prelims on ESPN+. It’s an important fight for Holland, who has gone winless in his two previous headliners inside the octagon.
More significant perhaps is Holland’s need to bounce back from his UFC 279 defeat to Khamzat Chimaev in September. The chaotic fight week is one that won’t soon be forgotten after the entire top of the card was overhauled on weigh-in day, with Holland shifting from facing Daniel Rodriguez to Chimaev and ultimately being quickly finished by submission.
Holland even went through a short-lived retirement in the aftermath of that fight and said it made him more seriously rethink the business side of the sport and how he ended up in the situation where he fought and lost to Chimaev.
“(My retirement) was serious as hell – super serious,” Holland told reporters at UFC on ESPN 42 media day on Wednesday via TheMacLife. “It’s still on the table. If I wake up Sunday morning after beating ‘Wonderboy’ and you guys have Chimaev fighting for a 185-pound world title, and he’s never won a fight at ’85 in the top 15, I’m retired. I understand business is business, but favoritism is favoritism. The kid missed weight. I had to step up and fight him after he missed weight to make the fight happen. I shouldn’t have had to do that.
“I did what I had to do. I did what I was supposed to do as a company man, so I’m sitting here telling you guys now: Certain things have to go certain ways. If they don’t go certain ways and we don’t get what we were promised, the things we talked about aren’t honored, you might as well give me my resignation papers and go home and smoke weed and play video games for the rest of my life.”
Holland, 30, said he’s always had strong thoughts about equal treatment and opportunity for all UFC fighters. However, only more recently has he felt comfortable being vocal about it. Holland clarified that he thinks UFC is a “fantastic company” and he’s “not f*cking complaining,” but he also has no intention of standing idle if he sees something he deems as improper, such as fighters like Bo Nickal and Raul Rosas Jr. – who have never fought in the UFC officially – being put in the UFC video game.
“There’s just certain things that just don’t make sense,” Holland said. “At the end of the day, if we’re here and we’re here to be fair and we’re here to be even, everyone should have a fair chance. We’re fighters. We fight for what we want. We should be able to fight off what we want. We should be able to get the same things if we’re fighting the same way. That’s just how I feel. But I’m not here to b*tch, I’m not here to complain. I’m just here to do what I feel is right and if I feel like something isn’t right, I will move the f*ck around, because that’s what I do.”
The UFC is structured in a way that rewards the biggest and more impressive winners, though, and Holland is in a position to do something that will have people taking notice. Thompson is one of the most decorated fighters in UFC welterweight history, and the chance for Holland to face him in a main event represents a big moment for him.
Holland can’t say with any certainty what the future holds, but on Saturday, he said he’ll be entering the cage looking to put “Wonderboy” to sleep.
“I’ve had plenty of visions on how I see the fight playing out, but ultimately the vision that just keeps staying there is, for some reason, it’s a third-round stoppage,” Holland said. “We shall see. ‘Wonderboy’ is a fantastic fighter. We all know he does wonderful things. He’s very defensive. He does a good job of not getting hit. But I think around Round 3 I’ll start him. I think once I start to hit him, it’ll be over.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 42.