UFC middleweight Kevin Holland took the chance to ask a cageside Khabib Nurmagomedov for tips during his Fight Night main event against Derek Brunson, although Holland’s trash-talk antics divided opinion as he suffered defeat.
The brash Holland was overpowered by the suppressive grappling game of American rival Brunson as Holland saw his five-fight winning streak snapped in a unanimous decision defeat at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
It was a workmanlike performance from the veteran Brunson, whose renaissance continued with a fourth win on the spin and led to him calling out Brazilian former 185lbs title contender Paulo Costa.
Brunson had to put up with a steady stream of chatter from Holland throughout the bout but kept his cool to outmuscle the man known as ‘Big Mouth’.
At one stage between rounds, the garrulous Holland even implored retired UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov – who was sitting cageside along with UFC boss Dana White – for advice on his wrestling game.
“The way to victory is to smash, brother… Give me some wrestling advice, hey Khabib, come on,” said a smiling Holland as he leaned against the cage.
“I mean, the thing is, I don’t have a fourth cornerman… Come over and help me. [It would be] phenomenal, all of a sudden I don’t get taken down, everybody knows Khabib is not only the best wrestler in the world but one of the best wrestling coaches in the world.”
Khabib was seen smiling in return and even threw a few tips Holland’s way.
Khabib to Holland between rounds: “You need to stop his wrestling. Control your hips”
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) March 21, 2021
The 28-year-old Holland actually went on to trip Brunson later in the fight – the first time he has ever been taken down in the UFC – although that was a rare success in an otherwise dominant night for Brunson.
Holland’s constant chatter inside the cage seemed to divide opinion, with some fans and fellow fighters finding it entertaining but others claiming it made a mockery of what could have been a golden opportunity for Holland to push himself further towards potential title shot contention at 185lbs.
This man is a whole character lol. Idk how I would deal with that at all. I’m glad I get to just watch it instead #UFCVegas22
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) March 21, 2021
My teammate just text me and said “Bro I thought I was supposed to be watching Kevin Holland not Kevin Hart” frfr #UFCVegas22
— Jamahal “Sweet Dreams” Hill (@JamahalH) March 21, 2021
UFC boss White had harsh words for Holland, accusing him of having a “mental breakdown” with his antics.
“I don’t know what he was doing. I think he might not have been able to handle the pressure and just broke mentally. I haven’t seen anything like that,” White told the media.
Holland himself was unrepentant, later taking to social media to proclaim that he was “never gonna stop talking” – and also thanking Khabib.
“Im gonna be me tell I die never said I wanted to be the champ I said I wanted to have a good time and that I did on to the next….,” Holland wrote.
“Thank you [UFC and Dana White] for the opportunity, back to the drawing board and see you soon. [Khabib] one little piece of advice and I take down a guy who’s never been took down in octagon true wrestling genius you are.”
Brunson, who improved to 22-7 with the win, said he was disappointed not to knock out Holland for his “stupid” trash talk.
“Come on, man: You’ve got to do better than that,” Brunson said of his rival.
“That was pretty stupid. Work to get up out of positions. You’re talking the whole time. I was going to talk back to him during the fight, but I’m like, ‘This guy’s stupid. He’s stupid. He’s just laying here talking and not improving position, so I’ll just let him.’
— UFC News (@UFCNews) March 21, 2021
“…I think he’ll learn from this. He’s got to be a little bit more focused on the fight. He was in shape, I was in shape. He wanted to entertain between rounds, but this is the fight game.
“It’s good to have fun, but you should probably be a little bit more focused on the fight because I was looking for my moments to really put some good punches on him and get him out there.”
After an unbeaten run of five wins from five octagon outings in 2020, Holland’s defeat saw him slip to 21-6 overall. Holland signaled again recently that he could target a drop to the welterweight ranks for his next contest.