Former UFC middleweight attraction Kevin Holland was expected to reinvent himself after dropping down to the 170-pound division, a move that came in the wake of consecutive decision losses to Top 5 contenders Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori.
“Trailblazer” was certainly off to a good start, racking up back-to-back wins over Alex Oliveira and Tim Means, which both came by way of second-round finishes. But then a catchweight loss to Khamzat Chimaev brought his career to an abrupt halt.
Holland announced his retirement just last week.
“I’m really close to this kid, and I like him a lot,” UFC President Dana White told MMA Junkie. “I think when you are competing in a sport like this, and you’ve done the things that Kevin Holland has done. He gets out of the fight with Brunson and realizes that he needs to work on his wrestling more.”
Olympic wrestling standout and former UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier was enlisted to help get Holland where he needed to be against some of the division’s top grapplers, but that deficit remained too wide heading into UFC 279 against Chimaev.
“So he dives in and starts working on his wrestling, and I think when what happened to him happens to you, I think you lay in bed at night and go, ‘Holy shit, how did that happen to me?’ He’s an emotional guy. I think the emotions got the best of him. Just take some time, get back in the gym and whatever he wants to do obviously – I love the kid, whatever he wants to do, he can do. But it’s a little too soon for him to retire.”
Holland continues to use the hashtag #retired in social media posts.