TGIFighting: Kevin Holland's Gimmick, New Fighter Unis and Jon Jones' Big Payday

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterApril 9, 2021

Kevin Holland
Kevin HollandGregory Payan/Associated Press

Welcome back to TGIFighting, our regular MMA column publishing every Friday morning. Here, we'll bring you exclusive interviews, preview upcoming cards and maybe try to have a little fun. Let's get it on.

Is Kevin Holland Overdoing It?

I'm starting to think Kevin Holland (21-6) might be a little, I don't know. Over the top? Maybe way over the top? When he steps inside the fencing Saturday to face fellow middleweight Marvin Vettori (16-4-1) in the main event of UFC on ABC 2, it will be Holland's seventh fight in the past 12 months—and three weeks after Derek Brunson beat him decisively at UFC on ESPN 21.

When do you start to wonder whether Holland is overplaying his hand? Sure, he'd won six straight up until Brunson, making him one of the standout fighters of 2020. But it's taken a weird turn. As Brunson was beating him, Holland, who may be the UFC's most prolific trash-talker, seemed more interested in real-time self-commentating than attempting to fight. It was so strange that UFC President Dana White later wondered aloud whether Holland had suffered a "mental breakdown," per Yahoo's Kevin Iole

A little bit of Holland goes a long way, and we've been getting a lot of Holland. If he wins Saturday—which he's not favored to do, as he's a +260 underdog per DraftKings (bet $100 to win $260)—this may be a moot point. He's certainly a good and sometimes entertaining fighter, so hopefully he keeps himself from burning out or letting his gimmick wear thin, if it's not too late. 


Do I…Do I Actually Like the New UFC Fight Kits?

By Jove! I think those new kits look pretty sharp.

Take this opinion with a grain of salt, as the last time I engaged in fashion design was never, but the colors seem more vibrant compared with the blocky black and white of the old Reebok uniforms. We'll see how they play this Saturday on the ABC mother ship when they make their big debut. Hey, if they spell the fighters' names correctly, Venum will be ahead of the game.

ESPN MMA @espnmma

UFC’s new fight kits by Venum have been revealed 👀 (via @ufc) https://t.co/WzsPaNvxJf

A welcome change beyond the design is that competitors will receive a small uptick in compensation from the deal compared with Reebok. As before, the pay will be based on a tiered structure that rewards experience. This won't close the pay gap between MMA and other sports, but it's an improvement. 


The UFC Does the Right Thing with Belal Muhammad

It wasn't Belal Muhammad's fault that Leon Edwards nearly gouged his eye out.

So it felt a little unfair when Edwards (18-3, 1 NC) received a sparkly and surely lucrative engagement with the great Nate Diaz (20-12) afterward, while Muhammad (18-3, 1 NC) found himself without a dance partner. Why should he be left in the dust?

MMA Junkie @MMAjunkie

Belal Muhammad reports 'no permanent damage' after eye poke, only 'shattered heart' https://t.co/A6N2Hb1cxC

Now the UFC has made it right, giving Muhammad a date with the legendary Demian Maia (28-10) June 12 at UFC 263. This is the last fight on Maia's UFC contract, and at age 43 he's into the dregs of his career. But his big name still remains. Will he lay his gloves on the Octagon floor after this bout? Either way, Muhammad has a winnable fight that could well and truly put him over.


Jon Jones and Boxing Money—What's Reasonable?

If you don't know MMA writer and insider John Nash, take this opportunity to acquaint yourself. Over at Bloody Elbow, Nash breaks down why Jon Jones (26-1, 1 NC), as great and popular as he is, can never command the sort of big boxing-style paydays he's demanding to move up to heavyweight and challenge terrifying new champ Francis Ngannou (16-3). 

Why not?

Jon Jones (right)
Jon Jones (right)Michael Wyke/Associated Press

Jones has said he wants to get paid like boxing superstar Deontay Wilder. Per Nash's report, White said last May that Jones wants $30 million to face Ngannou. In his last fight, a 2020 win over Dominick Reyes, Jones took in a reported $540,000 purse, per MMA Manifesto, and Jones said in a later tweet he makes around $5 million total per fight, a figure that could include incentives. Bit of a gap there.

As much as Jones might wish it to be true, the UFC is simply too powerful, with too big of a stranglehold on the MMA market—an estimated 90 percent, according to Nash—while boxing is much more fragmented.

Generally speaking, a top UFC fighter can't expect to go to Bellator, for example, and assume he or she will receive the sort of compensation available from the UFC. Whereas in boxing, promotions compete for the services of a given fighter, leading to bidding wars that in turn lead to massive paydays.

This is not to let the UFC off the hook for low fighter pay. But it does illustrate that Jones' demands are simply not realistic at this juncture and probably never will be without a fighters union or some other sea change. For the moment, here's hoping they can meet somewhere in the middle, because I need to see this fight.


Stone Cold Lead-Pipe Lock of the Week

Record: 5-0

Here's your conservative betting pick for this week. Toss it in your parlay or just sit back and watch the low returns roll in.

Mackenzie Dern
Mackenzie DernLeo Correa/Associated Press

This week we're locking in on a slight underdog in strawweight Mackenzie Dern (10-1), who is at +115, per DraftKings, to upend Nina Ansaroff (10-6). In her last battle, a unanimous decision over Virna Jandiroba (16-2), Dern showed an improved striking game to complement her world-class jiu-jitsu. Her opponent on Saturday is no Jandiroba, as Ansaroff sits at No. 5 on the official UFC strawweight rankings, six spots higher than Dern.

In her last bout, Ansaroff dropped a decision to another top-notch grappler in Tatiana Suarez (8-0). 

(By the by, can someone please take a fight with Suarez already? It's not good for anyone to have her moldering on the sidelines like this. Don't be scared, homies.)

Ansaroff also is returning after nearly two years away from the sport to start a family. That will leave anyone with Tin Man-level ring rust. 

With that in mind and with that grappling to fall back on, Dern has all the tools to turn the tables on Ansaroff.


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