When Kevin Holland stepped into the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia back in 2009 to watch UFC 101, he had no idea that he would be competing in that same Octagon a decade later.
At the time, Holland was a 16-year old kid who has been training in martial arts for about six months at time when he visited family in Philadelphia and got to attend his first ever UFC event.
The show made an immediate impression on Holland and while he didn’t know at the time that he would one day become a mixed martial artist, there’s no doubt attending that event had a far reaching effect on him.
That night, Holland witnessed middleweight champion Anderson Silva put on a dazzling performance to knock out Forrest Griffin in a light heavyweight contest while BJ Penn finished Kenny Florian in the main event to defend his lightweight title.
“I believe I was 16 years old at the time. I had been training martial arts for six or seven months and seeing that fight, it was like wow that’s putting your martial arts together at the top level,” Holland told MMAWeekly on Thursday. “It was like entering ‘The Matrix’ seeing [Anderson] Silva dodge punches and going back and forth. I was a Forrest fan because I had watched ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and seen him and Stephan Bonnar fight and I thought the guy was amazing. It was just a great experience.”
“I knew I really enjoyed the striking aspect. It didn’t completely make me want to do MMA but it let me know that I was really interested in the martial arts aspect completely. It drew me into a whole new level. It was fireworks, right there inside of the building. Watching Anderson Silva get the knockout walking backwards, that was just something top tier that I had never seen happen.”
A decade later the UFC is about to return to Philadelphia with a card that will air on ESPN2 on Saturday night, March 30 and Holland would like nothing more than to compete in the same place that helped him fall in love with the sport.
“Philadelphia makes a lot of sense,” Holland said when talking about his return to action.. “That was a historical moment for me. To be able to fight in Philadelphia and a lot of my dad’s side of the family lives out there, that would be a dream come true.”
Holland mentioned Darren Stewart as one opponent he’d be interested in facing if the UFC booked him in Philadelphia but more than anything he just wants to be on the card.
To come full circle 10 years after attending his first UFC event to actually compete in that same cage would be something very special for Holland and that’s why he’s hoping the matchmakers will be calling him soon with an offer.
“To be able to step up and fight on the card, I feel like that would be my breakout moment,” Holland said. “That would be one of the greatest fights of my career. Just to know 10 years later, here I am.”