LAS VEGAS — It sure didn’t seem like a positive moments after Calvin Kattar walked out of the Octagon after being beaten — badly — by Max Holloway on Jan. 16, 2021, in Abu Dhabi.
Kattar lost every round to the former featherweight champion and took a frightful beating in the process.
On Saturday at Apex, nearly a year to the day since that beating, Kattar returns to the Octagon to face Giga Chikadze in the main event of UFC Vegas 46.
While Kattar is the underdog — at BetMGM, Chikadze is a -235 favorite, with Kattar at +195 — he doesn’t feel that way. The Holloway fight, he said, is one of those things that happened.
Fighters get knocked out and come back in their next fight to win. The difference is that Holloway did not knock Kattar out. He didn’t even knock him down. That, though, isn’t unusual because Kattar has never been knocked down in an MMA career that began nearly 15 years ago.
Holloway set a UFC record for most strikes landed in a fight, but Kattar took everything he threw and never went down. He kept coming the whole fight. And while he lost, he earned a tremendous amount of respect for his will and his gumption by the way he performed.
Still, he’d prefer that it have gone slightly differently.
“We knew what we were signing up for when we took the fight, but really, I’m not proud to ever take any abuse,” Kattar said. “It comes with the territory. Like I said, I always knew I was tough and I knew I had a lot of heart. I just think most people found that out in the [Holloway fight].”
Kattar is ranked No. 5 in one of the deepest divisions, with only champion Alex Volkanovski and Holloway, Brian Ortega, Yair Rodriguez and Chan Sung Jung, aka “The Korean Zombie,” ahead of him.
He wants the high-profile win that will lead him to the promised land. He hasn’t given up on his dreams of winning a world title. Getting beaten that way in boxing might mean the end of a fighter’s title hopes, but because there are so many ways to win, and lose, in MMA, it’s not the case.
Confidence-wise, it might be difficult to believe in himself the way he did prior to the first bell against Holloway. Kattar was at that moment utterly convinced he was going to win and set up a championship bout with Volkanovski.
Even though he fought hard, and well, he was never really in the fight. Holloway might have been at his best and he dealt Kattar a significant beating.
Kattar, though, insists that he’s left the Holloway fight in the past, where it belongs.
A win over a hot fighter like Chikadze will be the salve to soothe the wounds and get him back on track. His confidence hasn’t been shaken, but if it’s taken even a slight hit, there is an easy way to fix it.
“Get a ‘W,’” he said. “A ‘W’ fixes everything. I know when I fought Max, they were all taking about that he’d gone 0-3 in his last three. You just have to go out and win something.”
Chikadze has won nine in a row, including seven in a row in the UFC, and has finished his last three fights to help him rise to No. 8 in the featherweight rankings. But if Chikadze has one failing at this point, it’s been a lack of elite competition. His win over Edson Barboza last time out was the biggest of his career.
But Kattar knows that Chikadze is highly regarded in the sport and beating a fighter on a roll like that will only have positive implications for him.
“He’s definitely a high-level kickboxer and he’s shown that in a lot of his fights,” Kattar said. “I don’t think he’s fought anyone like me since he’s been in the UFC. He’s done what he had to do with all seven guys [he’s faced], but looking ahead to Saturday, I think I’m a different caliber, a different breed. On Saturday, he’s going to feel the difference.”
Kattar has felt it from the opposite side, and it wasn’t all that enjoyable. He’s looking to prove he’s learned from that defeat and used those lessons to become a better, more dangerous fighter.
He’ll get that opportunity against a guy who is about as hot as they get in the UFC right now.