Kevin Holland had a bad night at the office and he doesn’t believe anybody is owed an explanation just because he lost a fight.
After building an impressive five-fight win streak in 2020, which was capped off by a spectacular knockout against perennial middleweight contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, the 28-year-old self-proclaimed “big mouth” lost a lopsided decision to Derek Brunson in his first UFC main event in March.
Following the fight, Holland received a mountain of criticism for constantly chattering at Brunson and even going as far as shouting at former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was sitting cage side, and asking him for advice. UFC president Dana White went as far as saying Holland had a “mental breakdown” in the cage that night.
While it certainly wasn’t one of his better performances, Holland denies that he fell apart under the pressure or paid too much attention to talking when he should have been fighting. Instead, he gives credit to Brunson for a job well done and acknowledging that he lost after an abysmal showing that night.
“Every time you listen to an interview or anything I’ve said after the fight, I said props to Derek Brunson,” Holland told MMA Fighting on Monday. “He went out there with a good game plan and did what he was supposed to do. It’s like I’m not one for excuses. Never have. Somebody gets the job done, they get the job done. He did a good job.
“It’s not robbing him of victory because at the end of the day, they’re all trying to find out why I lost. Cause they know 9 times out of 10, I’m supposed to beat the guy. I guess he just found the 10th time. It’s nothing wrong with them wanting to know what was going on with ‘one of their favorite fighters’. There’s nothing wrong that. At the end of the day, you thought Derek Brunson was supposed to beat me? No. So it’s like of course you’re going to ask, what was going on with you that night? Props to Derek Brunson. He did what he was supposed to do that night but come do that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Continue to hold me the whole night until eventually you’re not tired of holding me and then we’ve got a fight and then I’m going to beat the crap out of you. He did a good job. Props to him.”
Rather than sit and sulk over the defeat, Holland jumped at the chance to return to action sooner rather than later when an opportunity presented itself at UFC Vegas 23 this weekend.
Fellow middleweight Darren Till suffered a broken collarbone in training and that left Marvin Vettori without an opponent for a marquee card set to air on ABC. Without hesitation, Holland offered his services and now he’ll compete in a second straight main event but this fight isn’t about redemption or proving anybody wrong after what happened his last time out.
“I just like to fight,” Holland said. “At the end of the day, that’s one thing that will never change, I love to fight. I want to get the bad taste out of whose mouth? Out of the people who believe in me mouths? Yeah. The people who have something negative to say or always got something to say but they don’t do sh*t but sit on the couch? I don’t really care. At the end of the day, they don’t really bother me. They don’t pay my bills. The people who pay my bills, the people I truly affect — not the people who are just betting a couple of dollars on me trying to get rich off my name? Not those people. The true people, that’s what I care about.
“Other than that, I don’t really care. It’s like you have to be close to me for me to care. A lot of these people aren’t that close to me. A lot of these people don’t pay my bills. A lot of these people don’t have nothing that I care that’s invested into me. Appreciate the people for tuning in but I don’t know. They tune in for a good show. I give you a good show and you still complain.”
Considering what Brunson did in that fight, Holland has a pretty good idea about what’s probably rolling through Vettori’s head as well.
“I expect him to try what seems to work,” Holland said about Vettori’s game plan. “It’s like I expect him to do what’s in human nature. Do what you think works. Whatever you guys thinks works, that’s what he’s going to try and do. I lost my last fight a certain way, so obviously everyone thinks that works so that’s what they’re going to try and do.
“It’s simple. It’s very simple. I’m just going to fight. I hear you, I feel you, I smell you but I’m just going to fight.”
One loss obviously isn’t going to force Holland to re-examine how he approaches future fights much less make him change the way he has fun whenever he’s competing.
If there’s less talk happening against Vettori, it’s only because Holland promises he’ll be too busy throwing strikes to tell his opponent what’s coming next.
“I want to fight. I don’t know if everyone’s catching that drift,” Holland said. “You guys wanted big mouth the last time I did all that talking and then everybody complained. This time, I’m going to fight. So just be happy, I’m going to fight.”
Regardless of what happened the last time out, Holland has always recognized his true ride-or-die supporters versus the swath of fair-weather fans that are always going to plague the sport.
Rather than allowing himself to get mired in negativity, Holland prefers to just give his attention to the people who actually deserve it and not the ones begging for it.
“I’ve got a lot of other things to worry about than just those fans who love you when you win and hate you when you lose,” Holland said. “Like I said before, there’s the people who pay the bills, people who are truly there and that truly care. Those are the ones that really matter.”