Kevin Holland is nothing, if not consistent, in his approach to the fight game.
Since joining the UFC roster midway through 2018, the motor-mouthed Holland has made the walk 17 times and piled up a career’s worth of highlights. His penchant to take a fight without hesitation helped him rack up five wins in seven months during the unpredictable 2020, and he broke the record for shortest time between headlining bouts in 2021. That’s not to say the results have always been consistent. After going three fights without a victory, Holland made his move down to welterweight and earned a pair of performance bonus-worthy wins right away, but as he heads into his first bout of 2023 at UFC 287: Pereira vs Adesanya 2, he has lost two on the bounce.
Order UFC 287: Pereira vs Adesanya 2
Don’t expect him to change, though. That just wouldn’t be him.
“I don't care how big the check is,” Holland told UFC.com. “I still want to go to work. I made a s***load of money in 2020. I made a decent amount of money in 2021. I made a s***load of money in 2022. I'll probably make a s*** ton of money in 2023. That being said, it still won't be enough.”
Holland initially made literal noise on the UFC scene because of his potent trash talking, which was only exacerbated during his 2020 stretch when the empty UFC APEX gave a clear view to his constant chatter.
Going back to watch that stretch of fights for Holland is like watching reruns of The West Wing if, instead of strolling through the halls of the White House, Jed Bartlett’s senior staff put on some four-ounce gloves. But there is plenty of substance behind Holland’s affable front. There’s a hunger to the man they call “Big Mouth,” and when he aligns that hunger with focus, he produces some spectacular moments in the Octagon.
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“The difference between me and everybody else is I actually enjoy fighting and I f***ing love getting paid,” Holland said. “These other guys, they think they like getting paid. They think they like to fight. Truth is, they just like being like the next man or reason why they're all fighting a little bit more than they used to. Because being like, the next man and I'm the next f***ing man.”
Kevin Holland | Best Finishes
Kevin Holland | Best Finishes
Holland has burned fast and bright during his first five years on the roster, but he hasn’t necessarily burned out either. In his latest fight – a main event in Orlando against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson – Holland found success early when he rocked the former title challenger in the first round.
However, that highlight came with a cost in the form of a broken hand that left Holland a one-armed fighter for the rest of the night against one of the sport’s best kickboxers. Holland hung tough, but after the fourth round, his corner threw in the towel. The result was naturally disappointing, but Holland appreciated the “straight-up, traditional martial arts battle” with Thompson.
“It was a blast,” he said. “Dude was faster than I thought. He was slicker than I thought. Overall, it was a great time and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I got respect for everybody I fight. It's nothing but love for everybody, but if you come at me crazy or you do something sideways, then it's, ‘F*** you.’ For the Wonderboy fight, it was pretty cool because he knew he wasn't going to do anything like that. It was nothing but respect.”
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After recovering from his injury, Holland once again sets his eyes on establishing himself further up the welterweight ladder. In Miami, he takes on Santiago Ponzinibbio, who is fresh off a knockout win over Alex Morono at UFC 282.
Ponzinibbio is on an uneven 2-3 run since returning from a wealth of medical problems that kept him out of action for more than two years. However, with 16 knockouts to his name, he is a compelling dance partner for Holland, who believes he is superior to Ponzinibbio in every way.
“He's fought guys that I fought, and he didn't look that good,” Holland said. “I fought guys that he's fought. I looked pretty f***ing good. At the end of the day, we're both men. We both can get sick. We both can die. We both can go on a f***ing win streak. All that s*** can happen. At the end of the day, I'm faster, and I'm going to prove that. That's all that matters to me. I want to be faster thanbeverybody I go across from now on. I just want to be the fastest guy out there. Speed kills.”
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So far, it doesn’t seem like there’s any animosity between Holland and Ponzinibbio, despite Holland’s habit of stirring the pot during fight week.
Regardless of how that relationship develops as the two get closer to fight night, Holland has a singular focus as he approaches his first fight of 2023.
“I don't care if it's bad blood or good blood, I'm still gonna hit you in your mouth,” he said.
UFC 287: Pereira vs Adesanya 2 took place live from Kayesa Center in Miami, Florida on April 8, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!
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