It’s been a while since Scott Holtzman was getting ready for a fight in Arizona, but it’s been a smooth return to the MMA Lab squad as he prepares for his Saturday bout against Mateusz Gamrot. Just don’t say it was like riding a bike.
“It takes a little bit to adjust timing-wise, speed and all that with better guys,” said Holtzman, who went out west from Knoxville after losing training partners back home. “There's a lot more depth in training partners, we've got a bunch of Division I wrestlers and high-level guys all around. So it was a little bit of an adjustment, but I'm the veteran now, so I kind of eased into it. I didn't try to hop back into training too quick. I listened to my body and eased back into it, so I think that helped.”
That veteran experience is something you can’t put a price tag on. And when you add in the top-notch team and coaches leading him into battle for his 12th UFC bout, the 37-year-old is in a good place as he looks to bounce back from an August loss to Beneil Dariush.
Watch UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs Holland Main Card Special On ABC and ESPN+
That defeat was only Holtzman’s second in the last four years, proving that as he’s gotten older, he’s gotten better, so while he was disappointed by the result of his bout with the lightweight contender, a Fight of the Night win over Jim Miller six months earlier made 2020 a solid year for “Hot Sauce.”
“That's the game,” he said. “You're only as good as your last fight, really. And as high as the highs are, the lows are that low too. You can be having the best year and then be knocked out or injured or something like that and it will bring you back down. You just gotta realize that if you do something long enough, pretty much anything that could happen to you probably will. Did I want to lose that way (to Dariush)? No, but respect to him. He's a great fighter and he landed a couple good shots that really swung the fight in his favor. But it wasn't a bad year. A lot of people were unfortunately unable to work, but I was able to have a pretty good year.”
Now he wants to make it even better in 2021, and that can start with a win over Gamrot, a highly-touted up and comer who engaged in his own Fight of the Night in his Octagon debut against Guram Kutateladze, a bout that he lost via split decision.
MORE: Best Finishes From Saturday's Fighters | John Gooden Sits Down With Jack Shore | Fantasy Stats | Best Moments: Kevin Holland | Bonus Résumé: Jim Miller | Joe Solecki | Fighters On The Rise | Da-un Jung
“Obviously he's a big star over in Poland, so he's a super fighter,” Holtzman said of Gamrot. “It's just unfortunate that not a lot of people know him because he does only have one fight in the UFC. I thought he lost the fight (to Kutateladze); I guess you could argue that he won, but he's a super fighter, so it's unfortunate, but I've got my work cut out for me. Would I have preferred some sort of sexier matchup? Yeah, a matchup against a veteran that everybody knows, but I was out here training, I needed a fight, this is who they offered, so here I am. I'm gonna fight him and raise some hell.”
In the process of raising hell, Holtzman has laid down the gauntlet in terms of the fight he wants to deliver this weekend.
“I don't want to wrestle all day, and I don't think anybody wants to see that either,” he said. “So we'll try to keep it exciting and try to put it in a spot where I think I have the best shot to win.”
At this point, Holtzman always has a good shot to leave the Octagon with his hand raised, but the question is, where is he in a career that began in 2012? Is it all about chasing those sexier matchups or is a run at the belt still in his mind?
“I'd say I'm somewhere in the middle,” he said. “It's hard to chase a big fight coming off a loss, so I can't say that was my mindset, because you don't really have any bargaining chips unless you're one of three or four guys. So I always told myself and everybody else that I would do this as long as I was having fun and still feeling good. I'm having fun, I'm still feeling good, I'm still competing at a high level. In the lightweight division, a loss sets you back years, so I don't know if I have years to climb back to the belt, but I think with a win here It obviously puts me right back up in the mix.”
And hey, isn’t the light heavyweight champion of the world, Jan Blachowicz, 38 years old, with his number one contender, Glover Teixeira, clocking in at 41?
“I don't know if I see myself fighting into my 40s,” laughs Holtzman. “But that definitely gives me hope. Look, when people bring up my age, and I ask them if they would ask Daniel Cormier the same questions. There are a handful of guys that are older than me, and I think some of those guys are still fighting at a pretty high level.”