Former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway knows he’s in for a tongue-lashing from his son when he returns to Hawaii from Saturday’s fight in Abu Dhabi.
Before departing to headline UFC on ABC 1, Holloway told his 8-year-old son, Rush, a mainstay at Holloway’s fights, that he couldn’t attend because no fans were allowed.
Then Holloway found out that the card would be the first UFC event since March to have spectators in the building.
“I’m going to have an earful from him when I get back home,” Holloway said with a smile at media day.
But the top-ranked contender has to deal with Calvin Kattar first.
Kattar, 32, has won two straight fights and four of five to propel himself into the biggest bout of his career against a former champion who is still ranked in the pound-for-pound top 10 rankings.
“When you come off wins, the moments only get bigger,” Kattar said. “I have another big opportunity ahead of me with the former champion and No. 1 contender in the division. I plan to capitalize.”
The bout will headline an important card for the UFC. It’s the first card of 2021 and the first in four weeks after the organization held an event nearly every Saturday since May.
It’s also the first event at the new Etihad Arena on Yas Island, and the 2,000 expected fans will be the first official spectators since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
This also marks the UFC’s debut on ABC and first network show since a Fox event in December 2018.
“Coming off the successful year we had, for ABC to want us on there is huge for us and more importantly for the fighters,” UFC president Dana White said by phone from Abu Dhabi. “For them to have the opportunity to fight on network television is massive.”
For Holloway, the fight is his first nontitle bout since June 2016 and ends a stretch of eight consecutive fights with a belt up for grabs.
“Every time I had the belt with me, I said it was just a piece of fabric to let people know who I was,” he said. “That’s it. This is a huge fight. ABC is a big thing, and the first fight with fans since March. I’m very excited for this opportunity.”
While Holloway is no stranger to big shows, Kattar insists he’s ready for his time in the spotlight after more than 13 years as a professional. He did fight on the undercard of the May 2008 Elite XC show on CBS, the first time an MMA event aired on prime-time network TV.
Two of Kattar’s last three bouts have headlined fight night shows, but he thinks a title opportunity and pay-per-view main events are in his future with a victory over Holloway.
“It’s a great opportunity for me, but it doesn’t change what I have to do,” Kattar said.
If he wins and gets a title shot, Kattar might be able to check off another bucket list item.
“I’m trying to fight in Las Vegas,” he said. “It’s my mom’s dream to see me fight in Vegas, but I think she just wants to go there. That’s the fight mecca of the world. We’re only doing fights in Abu Dhabi and Vegas right now, and somehow I still can’t get a fight in Vegas.”
UFC on ABC 1
Main card bouts for Saturday’s noon event in Abu Dhabi:
— Max Holloway (21-6) vs. Calvin Kattar (22-4), featherweights
— Carlos Condit (31-13) vs. Matt Brown (24-17), welterweights
— Santiago Ponzinibbio (28-3) vs. Li Jingliang (17-6), welterweights
— Joaquin Buckley (12-3) vs. Alessio Di Chirico (12-5), middleweights
— Punahele Soriano (7-0) vs. Dusko Todorovic (10-0), middleweights