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Calvin Kattar trains with the New England Cartel in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on November 8, 2021. (Photo by Zac Pacleb)

Calvin Kattar Just Wants ‘Another Rep’

After A Year Away From Action, Calvin Kattar Is Eager To Prove Himself A Featherweight Contender At UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs Chikadze

Since entering the UFC, but particularly since about mid-2019, Calvin Kattar made his mark in the featherweight division keeping an active schedule and taking advantage of the big opportunities as they came. 

For as loaded as the weight class is, the top-half was often stagnant, fighting once or twice a year, and so when 2020 rolled along, Kattar made the most of his opportunities – first knocking out Jeremy Stephens at UFC 249 and then headlining a Fight Island event a couple months later against Dan Ige. Kattar parlayed those into a main event against Max Holloway to open 2021, where he landed on the wrong side of a record-setting performance from the former champion. 

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That was the last time we saw Kattar in action, and in the meantime, his opponent Giga Chikadze put together a similar run in the last year, knocking out Cub Swanson in the first round before putting Edson Barboza away in his first main event. 

To open up 2022, Kattar faces the streaking Georgian in the first main event of the year, and when I compare Chikadze’s run up the 145-ladder to his own, he’s quick to push back.

Calvin Kattar Is Only Focused On His Next Performance | UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs Chikadze
Calvin Kattar Is Only Focused On His Next Performance | UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs Chikadze

“Giga ain’t nothing f***ing like me,” Kattar told “Maybe statistically. Maybe. Barboza was a good W, man. He’s done what he had to do with the guys he’s gone against. Credit to him, and now he’s got the fight he was asking for. He’s got a lot to prove because he had a lot to say.”

Frankly, a lot of people had thoughts about Kattar after his Fight of the Night against Holloway. 

Some wondered if Kattar’s corner should’ve stopped the fight, but anyone watching could see Kattar was very much in the thick of it, defending himself and returning fire until the final horn. The fight reminded many of Holloway’s championship quality after a pair of losses to Alexander Volkanovski, but it also stunted Kattar’s own momentum toward a title shot of his own.  

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“All credit to Max,” Kattar said. “It’s too funny. Everyone was ready to write him off last fight, and then it’s funny how the stories change really quick. They’re all ready to write him off because he’s on a (two-fight) skid or whatever… Like I said at the time during fight week, they’re all ready to write him off and write that script, but I’m sure that story has gone away since that last performance because he came out and he did what he did. He fought like one of the G.O.A.T.s, and that’s what he is, so credit to him.

“I’m just ready to get another rep. You gotta get up, dust yourself off and step up to the plate again or grab your s*** and go home, and that ain’t me.”

Calvin Kattar | Top Finishes
Calvin Kattar | Top Finishes

Kattar had to exhibit some patience toward getting that next rep, however, in the aftermath of the fight. He didn’t sustain any major injuries, but given his work rate and then the damage sustained against Holloway, some time off was well-deserved.

Of course, to the Methuen, Massachusetts native, time off still includes time in the gym working with head coach Tyson Chartier, bantamweight contender Rob Font and the rest of the New England Cartel.

After supporting Font through two main event camps against Cody Garbrandt and José Aldo, Kattar now takes the team’s centerstage with the intention of re-establishing himself in the division’s title picture.

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“This sport is very forgetful,” he said. “You’re only as good as your last competition in a lot of people’s eyes but, for me, really, all that said, I could give two s***s about any of it … I have life-changing opportunities in front of me for me and my family to go out and get life-changing money, and that’s just what it’s about. That, along with building a legacy and just providing my family things we haven’t had our whole lives. I’m out trying to get it, and I’ll do whatever I can do get my hands on it.”

The most immediate course of action is defending his Top 5 ranking against the surging Chikadze, who is undefeated in seven UFC bouts and is riding a three-fight knockout streak.

A decorated kickboxer with a third-degree black belt in karate, Chikadze entered the UFC with plenty of hype. It took a few fights before he found his real groove, but soon, his patented “Giga Kicks” were coming at full force, and it wasn’t long before “Ninja” was trying to find his path to the top of the division. One of those roads included sniping at Kattar on Twitter midway through 2021, and naturally, Kattar took exception.

“I don’t really say I don’t like him, and I don’t not like him,” Kattar said. “I don’t really care about him. I’m not so much focused on him, except obviously I’m stepping in there with him. These guys – I just don’t care about none of them. I don’t care about these guys. I don’t care about Giga. I don’t care about Max. Credit to him. Good fight. Whatever. I just want to get back in there. Like I said, I’m just trying to get a W and get that show-and-win (money), and then just keep putting Cartel on the map. A win over Giga puts me right back into that race. I do have a vision down the line of me and Rob simultaneously holding belts, and I’m going to keep putting in the work to make that come to fruition.”

As a collective, the New England Cartel has hung its hat on putting the work first and everything else second, but it seems now more than ever, Kattar is chomping at the bit to get back into the Octagon. 

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He understands the responsibility he carries as a Top 5 contender and what a win over Chikadze does for his career on January 15. Although he’s not focused on proving doubters wrong, Kattar has responded well to adversity in the Octagon. After his other two UFC losses to Renato Moicano and Zabit Magomedsharipov, he strung together back-to-back wins and climbed even higher in the rankings. 

How a fighter is viewed is a part of the game, for better or worse, but Kattar has tunnel vision right now. The end of the tunnel is a UFC belt but, at the moment, Chikadze is the closest obstacle between him and gold, and that’s all Kattar cares about for the time being.   

“I don’t give a f*** really about any of the bulls***,” he said “Really, when I step in there is what’s going to matter. I’m just focused on the s*** that matters. I get that this is a big part of the game, but I’m just kind of spent on all the bulls***, and I just want to go in, and especially after the last performance, I’m not so focused on all the right things to say and promoting the fight and all this and that, and I know it’s part of your job as the main event to try and go out and do some of that, but I’ll let Giga keep digging himself a deeper hole. I’ll let him handle all the s*** talking for that, and I’ll grab the shovel when it’s time to bury him.” 

UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs Chikadze took place on Saturday, January 15, 2022, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. See the Final ResultsOfficial Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.