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Calvin Kattar explains year-long layoff, previews Giga Chikadze bout at UFC Vegas 46

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Calvin Kattar, who hasn't fought since losing a one-sided decision to Max Holloway on Jan. 16, 2021, faces Giga Chikadze in the main event of UFC Vegas 46 on Saturday.

Video Transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey, folks. I am Kevin Iole. And the UFC is back on Saturday at APEX. And they've got a good one in the Main Event. The featherweight division, you can't get a bad fight in that division, really. There are so many great fighters in the featherweight division.

We have in the Main Event on that one Giga Chikadze, who is ranked number eight in the world, going up against my guess right now, Calvin Kattar, who is number five. Calvin, man, it doesn't seem like they give you any easy ones, do they?

[LAUGHS]

CALVIN KATTAR: Hey, that's how I want it, man. In order to be the best, you got to take out the best. And this kid's on a seven-fight win streak. Looking to put an end to that come Saturday.

KEVIN IOLE: You know you did something-- I don't know if it was intentional, but that I really like-- you know, you had-- you lost to Max Holloway, which will basically be a year ago when you get into the ring. And you took that entire year off. Now was that intentional, just to let your body heal? Or was it-- did circumstances play into that?

CALVIN KATTAR: Yeah, a little bit of that was-- was definitely-- the first half was probably letting my body heal, being, uh, you know, listening to the professionals. And just being cautious, you know, can't hurt. And just knowing that through that time off, when I do step in there again, just-- just focusing on that moment and being as ready as possible.

But later half was just kind of-- just timing, you know? And, uh, as far as now, I think the timing couldn't be better, aside from maybe not having to go through the holidays, missing some meals. But that [BLEEP] happens, you know, when-- when you're trying to just climb the division amongst the division's best.

KEVIN IOLE: If it makes you feel any better, I ate all that for you, so, uh--

[LAUGHS]

CALVIN KATTAR: Yeah, I'm going to make-- I'm going to make sure we revisit half those meals that I missed over the last month.

KEVIN IOLE: No doubt in celebration. Before we get into, kind of, the fight, a couple of things I wanted to ask you. You know, you're beginning your 15th year as an MMA fighter, which is really amazing. I guess you started in 2007, just when MMA was kind of coming out of what you could call the Dark Ages, right? How was the sport changed over time, you know, in terms of, you know, not only fan reaction, but what you do to prepare and the kind of athletes you're seeing coming in?

CALVIN KATTAR: Yeah, harder is not always better, nor is, you know, tougher. It's just-- it's-- you're seeing the trend, just as far as training smarter. And, you know, now they got the UFC PI over here, the Performance Institute. That's a huge help, made our trip out here an extra week early to see the physical therapist, making sure everything's dialed in, on point.

But yeah, the whole sport, especially through the pandemic, it's even changed in the last two years, you know, all the new eyeballs on it, fresh casuals tuning in. So it's-- it's exciting, man. It's-- it's great to see the sport grow so much.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, Glover Teixeira made a big point about using the PI, and getting himself ready at 42 years old, and became the Light Heavyweight champion. What did they, specifically, do for you? Like, what were you able to take from the PI that's going to make you a better fighter than you have been previously?

CALVIN KATTAR: I can't get enough of the PI. If I could have it on a consistent basis, that'd be great. It's just tough to uproot your whole team from New England, you know? So that's-- that's where the trade off is, but when I'm out here, it's great. Take full advantage of the-- of the physical therapists-- they have some of the best in the world out here-- along with the institute itself, the Jacuzzi, the-- the-- the cage, the mat space, the-- just everything, man, even the quality of coaches out here.

I've got a second family of coaches out here. That's very helpful. And we get some work in with them every time we're in town and just collaborate. And yeah, everything's going great right now leading into Saturday. Couldn't feel better.

KEVIN IOLE: A lot of people have praised you incessantly since your loss to Max Holloway last year, mainly for your toughness. Now I saw something, you know. I knew going in that you were tough. I didn't have to see you take all those punches to know how tough you were.

But I saw a stat today that you've taken almost 1,000 punches in your UFC career and never been knocked down. Do you pride yourself on that? Is this-- I mean, I know you'd rather not get hit as much, but do you pride yourself on being able to say, hey, I know I have the chin that I can keep fighting my fight, and not have to worry?

CALVIN KATTAR: I think, funny, I think Max is one of the only other guys that that's-- that holds true for as well. But, um--

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah.

CALVIN KATTAR: --so we knew what we were signing up for when we did that, but really, I'm not-- I'm not proud to ever take any abuse. It comes with the territory, man. Like I said, I always knew I was tough. I always knew I had a lot of heart. I didn't really, um, you know, I think most people found that out the last one.

But I just-- I want the life on the other side of a win. I'm chasing it every time I step in there. And every time we get in, there's a chance, an opportunity to change your life. So, uh, you know, as far as the risk and, uh, versus reward, I'm just always ready to, you know, face the risk in order to get that. And I just worked, you know, last, like, 15 years, like you said, in order to achieve this, and finally getting these moments in front of me. It took 15 years and I feel like I'm just getting started all over again.

KEVIN IOLE: With Calvin Kattar, the UFC Featherweight, on Saturday, he fights Giga Chikadze. Calvin, mentally, I wonder how you'd come into this fight, because, you know, I know you were really eager to break in and prove that you were one of the best in the world. And when you're number five in the world, you are one of the best in the world, but maybe that elite class, that next level up. You had a tough fight against Holloway. How do you regain your confidence and make yourself believe that you're good enough to do this?

CALVIN KATTAR: Go out and get a W. A W fixes everything. I know when I fought Max, they're all counting him out, saying that he was on 0 and 3 in his last 3, you know? You just got to go out and win something. And I have that opportunity in front of me on Saturday.

KEVIN IOLE: Now, fighting Giga Chikadze, a, you know, different style of fighter than Max Holloway, you know, he's been pretty impressive, as you mentioned before, seven fights in a row, I think he's finished his last three, if I'm not mistaken. What challenge does he present? You're a guy that, you know, likes to get in there and let it go. What challenge does he present that maybe is specific to him.

CALVIN KATTAR: Yeah, he's definitely a, I think, high level kickboxer. And, you know, he's shown that a lot in his fights. But-- so I don't know if he's, like you said, I don't think he's fought anybody like me since he's been in the UFC. He's done what he had to do with all seven guys, but, um, looking to put a stop to that on Saturday. I think I'm a different caliber, a different breed, and on Saturday he's going to feel the difference.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, one thing I wonder, you know, when you talk about fighting a guy that throws kicks like he does, from so many angles, you know, is there a special preparation you go through to make sure you can see those coming? Because, you know, he's quick, right? And I think that's one of his good things. He throws those kicks from weird angles and he has quickness behind those. So in your preparation, is there something you do so that you make sure you're aware of that, and don't get caught by something you don't see?

CALVIN KATTAR: Yeah, just try to-- try to train with guys that kick quick, like you said, you know. And there's plenty of them at-- at the gym that we train at. And just getting that look as best as we can, and, um, yeah, just-- just prepare-- prepare me as best as possible for "Fight Night," but he's going to have his hands full too. You know, I'm not totally focused on what he brings to the table. I'm really, generally, more so focused on what I bring to the table, make these guys adjust to me, react to me.

Last fight it didn't work out that well, but, you know, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Like, it got me here. Try not to shy away too much from what got you here. And just kind of tinker with the rest as you go.

KEVIN IOLE: 2022, if it goes the way you want it to go, how many times do you fight? And where do you see yourself at this time in 2023, after you had the year you want?

CALVIN KATTAR: Yeah, it all starts with a big win over Giga, but from there, I like to be busy. Last year wasn't really busy. I'd say three fights this year would be solid. And-- and like I said, it all starts with Giga. From there it's a short list above me.

So three fights, my hand raised on all of them. It's put me close to that title contention. That'd be a great goal for me by the end of the year.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, we appreciate you, Calvin. Always enjoy watching you fight. I look forward to your fight on Saturday. Calvin Kattar, ladies and gentlemen. Appreciate you, my friend.

CALVIN KATTAR: Thank you, Kevin, appreciate it. Have a good one.

KEVIN IOLE: OK, bro.