Kevin Holland: Retirement or Strategy?

There’s been a lot of noise in the MMA world since Kevin Holland recently posted a cryptic message on his Instagram account that strongly hinted towards the possibility that’s he retiring.

Holland says that he got paid for the UFC 279 fiasco that ended up with the top of the card being shuffled and his opponent changed, and that he’s looking to retire before turning 3o next month.

This week, Holland doubled down on his new podcast saying he was done with fighting unless he gets offered something “super-duper magical”. It seems he plans to spend his time building his new podcast and also working towards opening a gym in Texas.

Could one of the most entertaining fighters in the UFC actually walk away from the sport that he loves so much? It’s definitely possible, but it’s hard to see him actually following through with it.

While I’m sure Holland and the other five fighters involved in the last-minute chaos of UFC 279 were well compensated for the trouble, I highly doubt that it was a big enough check to comfortably walk away and retire on.

Holland has had 17 fights under the UFC banner, so he is undoubtedly making a decent amount of money with each fight compared to some of the fighters just starting out with the promotion. He’s also picked up 5 bonuses on top of his show/win money in those fights, adding another estimated $250k to his UFC earnings.

So theoretically speaking, Holland could probably afford to retire and walk away from his UFC contract if that was really the decision his heart was set on.

However, I find it hard to believe someone that loves fighting as much as Kevin Holland just woke up on a random Thursday in September and decided to call it quits just like that.

More likely, at least in my opinion, Holland is exercising one of the few negotiation tactics available to fighters that are currently under UFC contract when things aren’t going their way: the threat of retirement.

Holland did the UFC a massive favor when he agreed to change opponents and face Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 279, and while he was paid to make the adjustment, he might not be happy with the way things have turned out in the aftermath.

Daniel Rodriguez, his originally scheduled opponent for the event, received a very quick turnaround and was almost immediately offered a matchup against #13th ranked Neil Magny and a chance to earn a ranking on the Oct 15th card.

Holland, meanwhile, hasn’t been booked for another fight yet and apparently isn’t being offered anything that gets his blood pumping enough to sign on the dotted line.

His frustrations are understandable. He was ranked at middleweight before two grappling heavy losses and a No Contest dictated a drop down to welterweight.

He’s 2-0 at welterweight so far, and had his originally scheduled fight against Rodriguez happened, there’s a very good chance he would have picked up a ranking had he won.

Instead, he agreed to fight Chimaev at a catchweight of 180 pounds and suffered another demoralizing defeat to a top-level grappler in the process.

Compensated for the loss or not, Holland is still undefeated at 170 pounds, and he deserves to have his next match with someone that gives him a chance to jump into the rankings.

However, Holland has made it very clear he is getting tired of facing these grappling-based opponents and is hoping the UFC will give him a matchup with another striker.

Holland’s frustration with facing grapplers is understandable as his last three losses were to Chimaev, Derek Brunson, and Marvin Vettori. In the five UFC fights that he’s lost, Holland has been taken down a whopping 24 times and subbed twice.

It’s not hard to see that Holland has clearly struggled in his career against the top-level wrestlers he’s faced, while having a fairly high level of success against pretty much anyone else.

While there are several interesting options in the lower half of the welterweight rankings that would be good stylistic matchups for Holland, there are two in particular that would make the most sense.

First, the UFC could book him against Li Jingliang, another fighter involved in the matchup changes at UFC 279 who ended up on the losing end of the shuffle. He’s currently #14 in the rankings and this fight would allow one of the two to get back on track and in the win column.

The other option is the more intriguing, but less likely scenario: the UFC decides to book Holland and Jorge Masvidal in the near future.

Masvidal has struggled as of late, but still maintains a pretty sizeable following with the fan base and would generate a lot of interest in this matchup. He’s currently ranked at #11.

Either one of those opponents would give Holland what he currently seems to be looking for: a break from facing dominant wrestlers, which would seem to rule out potential opponents like Michael Chiesa and Shavkat Rakhmonov.

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson would be another potential option that would make for an interesting matchup, although he might be a little too high in the rankings at #7.

If we’re being honest, Holland very much drew the short straw from the changes that occurred with the lineup at UFC 279. He went from a chance to earn a ranking to basically being fed to one of the hottest names in the company right now.

I don’t think it’s too much for Holland to ask the UFC to try to find a more stylistically even matchup for him in his next fight and I wouldn’t blame him for refusing to accept anything less.

If Holland is truly comfortable walking away from fighting and moving onto the next chapter of his life, then I couldn’t be happier for him and wish him the best.

Do you think Kevin Holland is really retired or is he just angling for the best route to get back on track in the welterweight mix? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

UPDATE: The UFC announced shortly after posting that Kevin Holland has “unretired” and will be facing Stephen Thompson at UFC Orlando on December 3rd.

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