The pool of contenders continues to grow for recently minted champion Alexander Volkanovski. The Aussie featherweight reaffirmed his place atop the 145 lb division last Saturday, at UFC 251, with a controversial decision victory over former belt holder Max Holloway in a rematch of their December contest.
But while he was wrapped up with preparing for his ‘Blessed’ opponent, the UFC has been trying to book other bouts between the divisional elite. Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Yair Rodriguez is reportedly targeted for August 29th, although a promised fight between Chan Sung Jung and Brian Ortega appears to be falling apart.
While none of those potential challengers for Volkanovski’s throne are yet to compete in 2020, Calvin Kattar already has two wins under his belt. The Team Sityodtong talent has climbed his way to no. 6 in the UFC’s official rankings. And after his latest victory, over a streaking Dan Ige, Kattar made his case for contender-ship.
“I mean if I make my case, I don’t got to do it with my mouth,” Kattar said at the UFC on ESPN 13 post fight press conference (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I do it in the cage. Like all these other guys, they all talk. Where I’m from, we don’t really talk about stuff too much. You go out and prove it. You earn it. In here, that’s not really the business model, so it’s a little bit of an adjustment for me. I go out, I fight, and I try to earn every opportunity in front of me.
“The champ should see that. He’s saying he wants contenders. You’re not going to find one more ready than myself.”
Kattar still isn’t that bullish on the trash talk, saying instead that he respects Volkanovski’s mindset and willingness to take on any and all comers. It’s something that he sees reflected in his own attitude and desire to put his faith in winning fights as his main way of making a statement to UFC brass. It’s that, along with his willingness to stay active that has him feeling like the man of the moment to fight for UFC gold.
“Who’s my competition?” Kattar said. “No one’s been busy in 2020. I think I’m doing well for myself competing, earning opportunities and I can’t really say much for everybody else in the division.”
And outside of just their 2020 numbers, Kattar does have a case as one of the most active featherweights at the top of the division. Since hitting the UFC back in mid-2017, Kattar has already fought 8 times for the promotion to run his record out to 6-2.
That’s two more bouts than Zabit Magomedsharipov over a similar amount of time (although that includes a win over Kattar), and the same number of fights as Brian Ortega has had with the promotion since his debut in 2014. Even Yair Rodriguez and Chan Sung Jung only have 10 bouts in the UFC to date. And for TKZ, that’s counting his WEC fights under the Zuffa banner. If Kattar keeps his present rate of activity going and keeps winning it seems likely he’ll be on deck for a title fight sooner rather than later.