Kevin Holland explains past run-in with Israel Adesanya: ‘The guy is good but f*ck him’

Kevin Holland became the first UFC fighter to pick up four victories in 2020 this past Saturday, yet the story became the war of words he had with the current middleweight champion inside the UFC APEX after the victory.

“Trail Blazer” finished Charlie Ontiveros with a vicious slam in the first round that led to his opponent verbally submitting due to a neck injury on the main card of UFC Vegas 12. With his third finish of the year—which includes stoppage wins over Anthony Hernandez and Joaquin Buckley—Holland earned his second performance bonus during a chaotic time in the world.

Following the win, Holland began verbally engaging with Israel Adesanya, who was in Las Vegas to support his City Kickboxing teammate Carlos Ulberg at Wednesday night’s Contender Series event. Holland stated at the post-fight press conference that they had a past run-in years ago in Los Angeles early on in Holland’s UFC career.

“I saw him sitting there and I thought he might be there watching Anderson Silva,” Holland told MMA Fighting during an interview on Thursday’s edition of What the Heck. “When I walked up to him, he knew who I was, but when I said something about [Los Angeles], he didn’t remember anything about it. It is what it is.

“F*ck it, when it happens, it happens.”

While Holland initially stated after his win that he wasn’t going to give out all of the details of what happened, he explained to MMA Fighting that it was a simple sizing up that got a bit more out of hand then it probably should have.

The initial meeting took place prior to UFC 227 as Holland was preparing for his short notice octagon debut against Thiago Santos.

“I had seen him in the stairwell and I simply said, ‘He’s not that big,’” Holland said. “And he was like, ‘What the f*ck did he say?’ And it was just the way he responded to it. I was talking to my coach saying, ‘Yo, he’s not that big,’ but I was looking at everybody in the division. They were talking about going back down to 170 but I didn’t think I needed to.

“When I saw him, he had been soaring through the division and we had similar bodies. He’s not that big. He didn’t like it and he kind of charged me up, like I was a freshman and he was a junior. I was the new guy on the team and he can just treat me however.

“My coach had to tell him to go the other way and James Vick had to push me down the stairs. In my eyes, it was like he was trying to punk me. So forever in my eyes, he was trying to punk me. Since then I’ve been like, the guy is good but fck him. I don’t believe in being punked. Every time I meet somebody like that, you have two personalities that are brash and that’s what happens. Nothing against the guy, but in my head, my world, we’re in the same weight class as it is, fck him.”

While the 27-year-old is having a breakout year and looks to create his own path in the 185-pound division, Holland has been more than impressed with what Adesanya has been doing. When asked about a potential move up to 205 for “The Last Stylebender,” Holland thinks it’s well-deserved and believes Adesanya can earn that elusive double champ status.

“I think it’s dope,” Holland stated. “He’s doing really fantastic things. I like that he’s an active champ. There’s nothing wrong with the guy. Nothing wrong with how he fights, or what he does inside the cage—unless he’s humping people from behind or some weird sh*t.

“Hats off to him and, honestly, I think he can win that fight at 205. I think it’s crazy he’s not doing it while Jon Jones is there (with the title), but that’s another story. I don’t want everybody to think that, ‘Hey, he’s always badmouthing the champ.’ I’m not badmouthing the man. Props to that guy. Everybody around me thinks he’s one of the best fighters ever and that’s what’s up. We’ll see what happens.”

If there’s one thing Holland wants to make perfectly clear, it’s that the back-and-forth with Adesanya had nothing to do with him trying to jump the cue, or attempting to earn a quick opportunity to fight for the middleweight title. Holland knows he still has a lot of work to do to get inserted into that conversation. He’s hoping that if he can get another fight—hopefully two—in 2020, he can take another step forward.

For now, Holland is enjoying the process.

“Yeah, I don’t need a title shot next,” Holland explained. “I think I got four, maybe six more fights before I get to a title shot and I’m cool with that. I like to fight. Four to six fights, I can probably do that in six, seven, eight months? I fight a lot so just keep giving them to me.

“People keep saying, ‘You can’t do that same thing against bigger competition.’ I’m an active man. I’m not training too much technique—at least it’s not changing. I’m just making the technical sht better. I really am just going out there just doing the same sht over and over again until I put it all together in magnificent form, in a faster way. That’s what I’m shooting for. If I can do all of that at an extremely fast pace, then f*ck ‘em. They can’t keep up.

“That’s what Khabib has been doing to everybody. He’s fighting at a really fast pace. I want to do that too. I guess I gotta work on that cardio like every keeps saying on Instagram.”