Dropping his first loss in five Octagon appearances over the weekend at UFC Vegas 22, event headliner, Kevin Holland reflected on his unanimous decision defeat to Derek Brunson, explaining how he lost sleep after the matchup, detailing how he doesn’t want to let people down.
Holland made his Octagon return against the now #4 ranked, Brunson, hoping to extend his winning spree to a stunning six consecutively. Failing to deal with the wrestling prowess of the North Carolina native, Holland suffered six takedowns over the course of the five round clash, on his way to a 49-45, and two 49-46 scorecard losses.
Criticised for his constant verbal communications with his opponent during the main event, as well as former UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov who was sitting Octagon-side, Holland landed the same number of significant strikes upstairs as Brunson, mostly from the bottom, however, the wrestling aspect presented by Brunson proved to be the difference-maker between the two.
UFC president, Dana White detailed after the clash how he believed Holland suffered a “mental breakdown” during the main event tilt, comparing the performance to Olivier McCall’s 1997 boxing rematch against former heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis. The promotional leader, who was sat next to the above-mentioned, Nurmagomedov also left the main event early, claiming “I can’t watch anymore of this, see you in the back“.
Denying those claims that he had suffered a mental breakdown, Holland spoke with ESPN MMA reporter, Ariel Helwani, explaining how he didn’t want to let certain people in his life down, and how he lost sleep as a result of the fear of that happening.
“It (the fear of letting people down) bothers me a tonne,” Holland said. “It’s like — I didn’t sleep after the fight, I didn’t sleep till — I got on the plane, slept a couple of hours on the plane, then I slept a couple of hours last night when I was at home. Ultimately, I didn’t sleep after the fight — and it’s not because I’m mad at myself, it’s ultimately that I’m mad that I let people down.“
“I hate to see the boss walkout, pissed off that I didn’t perform or that he felt the main event didn’t go down as he wanted it to go down,” Holland explained. “That’s on my hands so I hate that. DC (Daniel Cormier), we’ve had conversations before heading into this fight and, you know, there were certain things that I’m supposed to be shooting for and I guess I just never wrapped my mind around shooting for those things.“
Holland continued to explain how if he can iron out the creases in his overall game, well then he can prove to those who want him to succeed, that he wants to succeed as much as they want him to.
“I apologise for not wanting it as much as they want me to want,” Holland said. “Now, I just feel like I need to get those things to prove to them that I can do it. So it’s not really for me, it’s for everybody around me — for the people that care for me and the people that want to see me do well. I don’t want to do bad because — I don’t want their hopes and dreams of me to be washed down because I just don’t give a f*ck, you know what I mean?“
With blueprints laid out for a possible return to the welterweight ranks for the first time in four-years, Holland enjoyed a record-setting 2020, lodging five consecutive wins in a calendar year — becoming the first and only middleweight in promotional history to do so.
As part of his winning spree, the Travis Lutter Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt scored a Knockout of the Year contender against former Strikeforce 185-pound titleholder, Jacare Souza in December, to go with prior wins over Charlie Ontiveros, Darren Stewart, Joaquin Buckley, and Anthony Hernandez.