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March 30, 2019

With no local fighters on the UFC Fight Night card, Kevin Holland is Philly's best shot

No matter whether Kevin Holland wins or loses at UFC Fight Night in Philadelphia on Saturday, he's going to have one hell of a story to tell. Ten years ago, as a 16-year-old kid, Holland attended his first-ever UFC event, UFC 101 at the then-Wachovia Center. Now, a decade later, Holland is a professional fighter and will once again be attending a UFC fight at the Wells Fargo Center. 

Only this time, he'll be the one fighting. 

A few month's ago, Holland (13-4-0) was looking for his next fight, and he told PhillyVoice the story of watching Anderson Silva fight Forrest Griffin from the crowd back in 2009, promising that if UFC president Dana White would give him a fight on the Philly card, he'd have "an epic 10-Year Challenge" to post on Facebook. And he still fully intends of honoring that promise.

You're making it happen, and I'm still going to post my 10-Year Challenge. I might be a little late, but you can always be late when you're great.

"Man, it feels surreal. It feels awesome," Holland told PhillyVoice in a recent interview. "You're making it happen, and I'm still going to post my 10-Year Challenge. I might be a little late, but you can always be late when you're great. So there's nothing wrong with it. I'm definitely going to take full advantage of this. This is the opportunity I wanted. They're giving me the fight I wanted — late, but that's alright. I've been training, I've been working, I'm ready to go.

"That's all it is, it's a matter of go-time now. This a wonderful, wonderful situation. And it's going to make for a wonderful post on Facebook when I'm all done with it."

For Holland, however, this fight isn't just about closing a circle on his UFC journey. It's about potentially inspiring a young UFC fan in the crowd to follow in his footsteps, just like Silva and Griffin did for him back in 2009. 

It's also a family affair. 

The reason Holland, who lived in California but now fights out of Texas, was in Philly back in 2009 — when he first fell in love with UFC — was to visit his dad's side of the family for the first time, which he describes as "Philly boys from birth, Philly boys 'til the day they die." Holland has also learned over the years that's where he got his "warrior side." 

Holland, 26, said he expects at least 30 family members in attendance on Saturday night, which hasn't caused any added nerves.

But as he's the closest thing there is to a local rooting interest, his cheering section should be much larger. Like, 20,000 strong. So how does he plan on winning the fans over early and letting them know he's one of them?

"I definitely thought about using some Meek Mill [as my intro music], because everybody in Philly love that Meek Mill," Holland said. "We'll have to wait and see until the fight comes and they announce my name and I come out to my music. I don't like to tell ahead of time what the music is going to be. I thought about Meek Mill, but it's not Meek though — it's something else."

Aside from getting a haircut with "some of the boys" and possibly a cheesesteak — depending on where his weight is — Holland's family reunion will likely have to wait until after the bout. 

"For the most part, after the fight is when we'll start having fun," Holland said. "Beforehand, it's all business. I'm going to kill a man."

That man is fellow middleweight Gerald "GM3" Meerschaert, a 31-year-old veteran of the fight game with a 28-10-0 record. And that's just fine with Holland, who has all the confidence in the world heading into Saturday's fight.

He's a smart guy, so he knows there might be a little less trouble on the ground... I think the smartest thing for him to do is to get in there and lay down. Give me my bonus.

"I believe I'm faster. I believe I'm stronger. I believe I'm slicker. I believe that any way this fight goes, I have the advantage," Holland said. "I just honestly believe I have the advantage... I'm not sleeping [on him], I'm just a younger, better version of the man. And that's the difference. Like I said, this is his 40th fight. I believe he's happy with the coaching gig — you know, he's been coaching Ben Askren and helping out with those guys over there. He's happy working the corner, not so much being in the fight, so I plan on exposing that."

Holland and GM3 will square off on the prelims on ESPN2 around 5 p.m. on Saturday evening. And you better tune in quickly, because to hear Holland tell it, it won't be a long fight. 

"You know — 40 fights, 50 fights, 60 fights, 2 fights — once you've seen me fight, I expect the same thing from all of [my opponents]," Holland said. "I expect them to get hit hard, and I expect them to shoo. I don't expect them to stand in front of me for too long. He's a smart guy, so he knows there might be a little less trouble on the ground. But he's been submitted a lot of times in his career, so we'll see how bold he is. 

"I think the smartest thing for him to do is to get in there and lay down. Give me my bonus."

No one can ever accuse Holland of lacking confidence. And at such an auspicious moment for Holland, being back in the same arena where he first fell in love with UFC, would you really bet again him?


Here's a look at the full card for Saturday night...

Main Card

7 p.m. on ESPN2

Lightweight (Main Event): Edson Barboza vs Justin Gaethje
Middleweight: David Branch vs. Jack Hermansson
Women's Strawweight: Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Michelle Waterson
Featherweight: Sodiq Yusuff vs. Sheymon Moraes
Light Heavyweight: Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Paul Craig
Featherweight: Josh Emmett vs. Michael Johnson


5 p.m. on ESPN2

Women's Strawweight: Marina Rodriguez vs. Jessica Aguilar
Lightweight: Ross Pearson vs. Desmond Green
Featherweight: Enrique Barzola vs. Kevin Aguilar
Middleweight: Kevin Holland vs. Gerald Meerschaert

Early Prelims

3:30 p.m. on ESPN+

Women's Flyweight: Sabina Mazo vs. Maryna Moroz
Bantamweight: Ray Borg vs. Kyler Phillips
Bantamweight: Alex Perez vs. Mark De La Rosa

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