When it comes to fighting, Scott Holtzman can best be described as a perfectionist, so when he says that his walk to the Octagon to face Clay Guida on Saturday will be his last one, you have to wonder if he’s being too hard on himself for his last two losses coming against two of the lightweight division’s best – Beneil Dariush and Mateusz Gamrot.
“You never know,” he chuckles. “The hindsight is 20/20. At the time I was looking at Beneil, he was ranked 15th and I was trying to jump into the rankings, and he's run up there, and I took a chance fighting Gamrot. I knew how good he was, but he was relatively unknown in the U.S. And those guys are in a title eliminator a month ago.”
It’s the curse of being a participant in a game of inches, where one punch you don’t see or one move to the left when you should have gone right could be the difference between getting into the title conversation or questioning your career path. Holtzman, a pro for over a decade with 12 UFC fights under his belt, knows this better than anyone, but when it comes to his decision to retire after the Guida fight, he’s at peace with it, and it has nothing to do with being able to compete at the top level. It’s about family. That’s not to say there weren’t some difficult days during his last training camp in North Carolina.
“I'm kinda struggling with that,” he admits. “The young guys are asking me, so, if you win and stop him in a minute or you have the cleanest fight ever, are you sure you're gonna retire? (Laughs) I'm still moving really well, I'm healthy, I'm fast, I'm sharp, I'm beating up some of the young kids, so I'm at that point right now, but I'm happy with my body of work. I don't define myself on the wins and losses. But you never want to go out on a loss, that's kind of bittersweet.”
Win, lose or draw in Orlando on Saturday night, though, Holtzman had made his mind up.
“I've done a lot and I'm ready to transition into dad life,” said Holtzman, a married father of one with another son on the way. “You miss the first four, five years of a kid's life just being away from home and having to train, and it's been hard on me. I never had a real dominant father figure, so I felt this sense of duty to give back and make sure that I'm present, and that's what I want to do. If you break down my five losses, two (Dariush and Gamrot) were up to the title almost, Josh Emmett's gonna fight for the title, Drew Dober's on one of the longest knockout streaks in the lightweight division, Nik Lentz was in the rankings multiple times. So I've been in there with some of the best of the best. That's not bad for a guy who got into the UFC when he was 30.”
And while the losses stick to him, he’s always been too humble to talk about the wins, which include victories over Jim Miller, Dong Hyun Ma, Anthony Christodoulou and the one he’d put in his personal time capsule.
“It has to be the Alan Patrick fight,” said Holtzman. “That was the best. Vegas on the (Conor) McGregor versus Khabib (Nurmagomedov) card, the amount of pressure being on that card, and I was a two or three to one underdog, he was 15-1 and I just went out and dominated and put on a well-rounded performance and ended up with a knockout. I think that's the one that I'm most proud of.”
He should be proud of all of them, not just for his performances, but the class he brought, as well, because that’s something his boys can look at and say, “That’s my dad.” That’s not easy these days.
“There's a handful of people who appreciate that, and in this day and age, that's not really looked upon in a positive light,” said Holtzman. “Everybody wants you to trash talk and say bad stuff and, for me, in the beginning, whenever I would come to a crossroad where I could do that - and sometimes guys will pick at me online and I love trash talk and a little bit of banter and locker room talk as much as anybody - I always thought, you know what, some of this stuff on the internet is gonna be out here forever. Do I want my future kids to see this, and do I want to do something to be out there where I'm not gonna be able to look myself in the mirror one day and be proud of myself?”
Holtzman can look himself in the mirror with pride. But what’s going to take the place of those moments in the Octagon?
“Nothing does,” he said. “There will be no replacing that. That's something that I'll have to live without. And obviously my days will be a little more empty without that feeling. That's the ultimate drug, the ultimate high. But we've seen it time and time again; any professional athlete has to figure out a way to not define yourself by that sport. So I'm gonna try my best to do that and not define myself as only a fighter and move on into my career. I've done some really great things. I never thought I'd leave Knoxville, Tennessee. I definitely would have ended up in a lot more trouble, and fighting's been such an amazing ride. I've met the best people fighting. And I'll definitely miss it, but I think if I do get that wild hair and everything goes perfectly (against Guida), I'll have you call my wife and ask her for permission, because she's ready for a break, too.”
Oh no, Mrs. Holtzman is winning that fight. But the question is, will ex-fighter Scott Holtzman, who used to play ice hockey, be dusting off the skates in retirement?
“Nah,” he laughs. “They make my feet hurt too much now.”
UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs Holland took place live from the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on December 3, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!