Calvin Kattar calls Holloway vs. Allen true #1 contender fight at 145lbs – he’s right

Max Holloway and Arnold Allen of England face off during the UFC Fight Night ceremonial weigh-in at T-Mobile Center on April 14, 2023 in Kansas City,...

Having shared the cage with both of tomorrow’s main event fighters, albeit finishing in contrasting circumstances, #7 ranked featherweight contender Calvin Kattar today shared his opinion on the landscape at 145lbs. Still recovering from a torn ACL injury, the 35-year-old remains excited about the future in a division bound to continue shifting at the top before his return.

Kattar, like most, excited about what’s at stake on Saturday

Max Holloway addresses the media for UFC Fight Night Kansas City at on April 12 at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Holloway, here during Wednesday’s media day, looks to stop another contender in their tracks
  • “When the fight was announced, I thought it was a banger… definitely a no. 1 contender fight over the interim one [Emmett-Rodriguez] that took place. Max is a beast who brings it all the time… Allen’s on a 10-fight win streak, what a matchup,” Kattar previews Saturday’s showdown
  • Kattar sustained grisly injury early in R2 of main event against Allen last October, and was soundly beaten by Holloway at the start of 2021 so is best-placed to give his viewpoint before pivotal clash in his division
  • “What if Yair does the unthinkable and beats Volk? That’s the beauty of this sport, anything can happen at any time and usually when you think it can’t, that’s when it does,” Alexander Volkanovski vs. interim champ Yair Rodriguez set for UFC 290 on July 8 for undisputed 145lb title
  • 35-year-old expects Holloway’s experience in championship rounds to pay dividends against a surging contender who hasn’t experienced the highest level yet, despite his impressive form – unbeaten since 2014

Perennial featherweight contender Calvin Kattar might be sidelined for the foreseeable future, but the 35-year-old has taken inspiration from Rob Font’s emphatic return to action last weekend as a catalyst for his own injury comeback.

Having torn the ACL in his right knee last October, Kattar remains ahead of schedule in his recovery but doesn’t want to return too soon – aware how disastrous another defeat could be at this stage of his career, as far as his title aspirations are concerned.

Calvin Kattar reacts after his loss to Arnold Allen of England in a featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 29,...
Kattar tore his ACL early in R2 against Allen, who he described as a fast starter

He told MMA Junkie in February he was targeting the first quarter of 2024, and doubled down when asked about his knee during conversation with Mike Heck and Shaheen Al-Shatti on MMAFighting.com’s preview show earlier today.

“My knee feels good, almost ready to put it into someone again, I’m excited. Getting some team jogs in with Rob [Font] and the guys last week, feeling great, but need to stay patient and pull back because you feel better than you are.

Rob had it [the same injury] in the past so I’m leaning on him, the way he came back… I expect it to be [similar], finding my same reasons to get pissed off and motivated to come back.”

He knows he’ll have to defend his ranking, the same way Rob did, but after stifling Giga Chikadze’s hype in a Fight of the Night contest at the start of January 2022, he’ll fancy his chances against any contenders looking to catapult at his expense.

UFC featherweight rankings: 6-15
6: Korean Zombie
7-10: Kattar, Chikadze, Ilia Topuria, Movsar Evloev
11-13: Bryce Mitchell, Sodiq Yusuff, Dan Ige
14, 15: Edson Barboza, Alex Caceres

As they analysed the landscape atop the division, he joked that permutations elsewhere around championship level weren’t very motivating to hear but is aware he needs a few wins under his belt before he can get back into the title picture.

That disputed split decision defeat by Josh Emmett (#5) last summer will still feel sore, though movement is inevitable before he steps back into the Octagon.

Emmett vs. Topuria is set to headline a June fight night, while The Korean Zombie and Brian Ortega – both former title challengers – are both recovering from shoulder injuries with no clear timeline for return dates.

Holloway’s recent win over interim champion Yair Rodriguez will age even better if he stuns Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 290 in July, an idea Kattar floated as they assessed where the former champion can go with victory this weekend.

In any case, they’d probably do an immediate rematch – causing a “big traffic jam,” not what anyone wants to hear. All the top contenders are 30-plus, Allen at 29 is an exception and Kattar said we’ll learn a lot about him after this.

On what he’d say, if Allen called him asking for advice before tomorrow night:

“I don’t know if he wants to listen to my advice, I didn’t fare well but finished it the way I started – on my feet – I’d say bite down on the mouthguard, go out there and earn your respect. Don’t let him run it up [get a lead on strikes landed], do your best to back him up, pick your shots and mean business.

Dustin [Poirier] and Yair did, continue what you’ve always done and don’t switch it up now, put some respect on your own name.”

Poirier beat Holloway in their heavily-anticipated rematch, back in April 2019, when Max held the 145lb strap and moved up to lightweight for a crack at interim gold.

The 31-year-old has this week conceded a 155lb move remains appealing, given the options that lie in a new weight class.

“You got killers up there, those fights excite me. We just see what happens, it’s always great to go up a weight class when you got a belt around your waist so we’ll see what happens. Never say never.”

It’s remarkable to consider there is barely two years’ age difference between Holloway and Allen, given the former’s durability and high-level mileage on his body.

26 UFC fights, this weekend will mark a 12th five-round headliner so you can’t help but wonder when the damage will start to show and impact his fan-friendly style.

He might have 59% significant strike defence (4.89 absorbed per minute) and proclaim himself the promotion’s best boxer, but has absorbed plenty of punishment since scoring a R4 finish against Ortega while still champion in Dec. 2018.

He looked a step slow and laboured in the latter rounds last time out against Volkanovski during their trilogy last July, and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares against the third-youngest contender in the top-15.

UFC Kansas City card, as it stands

Arnold Allen addresses the media for UFC Fight Night Kansas City at on April 12 at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Ipswich’s Allen faces the biggest test of his career tomorrow against a former champ

Main card (1.30am BST)
Featherweight main event: Max Holloway [2] vs. Arnold Allen [4]
Featherweight: Edson Barboza [14] vs. Billy Quarantillo
Light-heavyweight: Dustin Jacoby [13] vs. Azamat Murzakanov [15]
Light-heavy: Ion Cutelaba vs. Tanner Boser
Bantamweight: Pedro Munhoz [9] vs. Chris Gutierrez [13]
Lightweight: Clay Guida vs. Rafa Garcia
Prelims (10.30pm BST)
Featherweight: Bill Algeo vs. T.J. Brown
Flyweight: Brandon Royval [4] vs. Matheus Nicolau [5]
Light-heavy: Zak Cummings vs. Ed Herman
Women’s Strawweight: Gillian Robertson vs. Piera Rodriguez
Lightweight: Lando Vannata vs. Daniel Zullhuber
Women’s Strawweight: Bruna Brasil vs. Denise Gomes
Bantamweight: Aaron Phillips vs. Gaston Bolanos
Women’s Bantamweight: Joselyne Edwards vs. Lucie Pudilova

Picture source: Getty Images, fighter quotes all sourced and edited for clarity