In today’s MMA scene, it’s an easy choice for most fighters to join a large, successful camp in order to advance their careers.
And while it’s shown that teams such as the American Kickboxing Academy, Xtreme Couture, and Jackson’s MMA can produce top tier talent, there’s something to be said for the fighter who ops to stay with what he’s got and make a run at the higher levels of the sport.
For Ring of Fire welterweight title contender Chris Holland, it’s all about working with those closest to you, rather than what’s most popular at the time.
“I helped start Ground Zero MMA out of a garage about three years ago,” Holland told MMAWeekly.com. “It’s a very small gym and we have about six fighters, but we’re steadily growing our name here in Colorado.
“I have to bring in fighters from local gyms to work out, but I enjoy working with my friends and that’s more important to me.”
Holland also points out that if he’d join a larger gym such as the famed Grudge Training Center, he wouldn’t have the kinds of opportunities he’s getting now.
“The training is world class, for sure, but for me to have those great match-ups and fights I’m having, I can’t be a part of that gym,” he commented.
“It’s kind of like a Catch 22. To have these great fights in Colorado, you all can’t be part of the same gym, and I don’t know if I necessarily want to be part of one of those huge gyms, so I’m happy about (being where I am).”
So far, working where he’s most comfortable has helped Holland quickly rise up the ranks of the Colorado fight scene, and on Saturday night at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield (just outside of Denver), he’ll get an opportunity to take his biggest step yet when he challenges former Strikeforce fighter Brandon “Ruckus” Thatch for his title.
“Ruckus is a big name here in Colorado,” stated Holland. “He’s got phenomenal stand-up, and I’m sure his ground game is as well. He’s 100-percent legit and I can’t wait to test my skills against him.”
On paper, Thatch seemingly has a big advantage in height and reach, but Holland says he’s done what’s needed in order to negate their physical differences.
“We spent the last six weeks working on that exclusively, closing the distance and being all the way in or all the way out,” said Holland. “I can’t mess around with his strikes. I’m not going to stand there and take his punches and kicks.
“If I have too many problems with his reach – with him being six-foot-two and me being five-foot-nine on a good day – I’ll probably have to take him down. My wrestling is going to be better than his; I know that. So if I can’t put him on his back with my hands, I’ll do it with my takedowns.”
At 35 years old, Holland isn’t someone who has time to waste, and he’s shown that by making requests to face the best possible competition he can get at every turn.
“I asked for this fight,” explained Holland. “I’m not disrespecting Brandon, of course, but it’s because I want to fight the best. This is my UFC; this is my Mount Everest right here.
“From day one I’ve been taking the hardest fights I can take. I’ve fought incredible fighters, and that’s just how it’s been from the very beginning. I know my window is short.”
Chris Holland wants to prove you don’t need a big name camp to become a big name yourself. If you want to make it to the top you’ve got to shoot for the top, and that’s exactly what he’s doing on April 16.
“I want to thank my team and my sponsors: Bite Down and CrossFit Unbroken,” he said in closing. “I want everyone to come check out this fight and make sure you’re sitting down for the main event because it’s going to be amazing.”