Calvin Kattar, co-owner of Salem-based Combat Zone LLC, is on Saturday's card for UFC 220 at TD Garden in Boston. Kattar impressed in his last UFC fight last year in California. (Courtesy photo)
He took his first Ultimate Fighting Championship bout at the 11th hour as an injury fill-in versus a fearsome opponent and against overwhelming odds, yet he won every round on points and emerged from the cage with a stunning unanimous decision.
On Saturday night, when UFC 220 is waged at TD Garden in Boston, Calvin Kattar is out to prove that was no fluke.
“It bothered me that I was underestimated in that last fight. I had a chip on my shoulder and it definitely gave me more motivation,” said Kattar, who had just 14 days to prepare for UFC 214 in California and signed a four-fight deal with the sport of MMA’s top-level promotion on the heels of his upset win over Andre “Touchy” Fili in July.
“In my last fight, I felt like I had more to offer, more to show, but I only had those two weeks to prepare. I’m comfortable taking the ’W’ but I did want to offer a little bit more. I’m really happy with the way that fight worked out and now here we are,” he said.
Where he is now is just days away from the toughest test of a pro career spanning the last decade. The 29-year-old Salem-based businessman and mixed martial artist is the No. 18 -ranked featherweight in the world as he takes on the undefeated and 19th-ranked Shane “Hurricane” Burgos (10-0-0) on the main card of UFC 220.
The fight is so highly-anticipated that it precedes only the co-main event for the light heavyweight championship between Daniel Cormier (19-1-0) and Volkan Oezdemir (15-1-0) and the main event for the heavyweight championship of the world between Stipe Miocic (17-2-0) and Francis Ngannou (11-1-0).
This time, Kattar’s odds are about even or he may be slightly favored.
“Calvin is stronger than he’s ever been and he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in,” said his manager, Tyson Chartier, who heads up Top Game Management and hails from Manchester. “We’ve had a nice long camp and gone all around New England training with different coaches to make sure every aspect is covered. He’s ready.”
With 10 weeks to prepare for his bout with Burgos, plans included a stop at the famed and cutting edge Sports Performance Institute in Las Vegas. Top Game teammates Rob Font and Kyle Bochniak, who are competing on the UFC 220 undercard, were part of the experience.
“We were all fortunate enough to go out there a month ago and it was nice break in the camp. It lightened the mood while we were getting some good work in,” he said. “It’s an amazing facility. They have a great gym with a (hyperbaric) chamber, state of the art PT (physical therapy).
“It created a good vibe going into the fight. That’s all you really want because things are going to happen one way or the other. You put in the work, and when you have that good vibe and a great feeling going in, it only betters your chances.”
Kattar has also been studying his 26-year-old opponent, who brings a similar type of attack into the cage.
“In the UFC there are no easy fights. I think we have a great style match-up. We both like to stand up and throw (punches). I think we’re going to go out there and get the fans up and out of their seats and I think it’s going to be a great fight,” said Kattar.
Burgos, a Bronx, N.Y., native, has won 40 percent of his fights by knockout or technical knockout while Kattar’s side of the stats sheet has him at 35 percent. Saturday night Kattar gets the chance to show his hometown crowd how he earned the moniker “The Boston Finisher.”
“Getting to the UFC was a bucket list item, and getting to fight in the UFC at the Garden was always a dream. Now it’s a dream come true. I couldn’t ask for anything better than that. We wanted this one, and we got it. What a feeling,” said Kattar, who with brother Jamison is the co-owner and co-promoter of Combat Zone LLC, the longest running MMA promotion in New England.
Will fighting on the sport’s biggest stage and under the brightest lights in his backyard bring extra pressure?
“There’s always going to be pressure in every fight, no matter what. Most people run from it, but I’ve got to run to it. I’m excited to go out there. That first fight for me was where I thought the pressure would have been, but my mood was really light. That chip on my shoulder really helped me dial in and focus on what I had to do. I felt like I was playing with house money. I’m having fun with this one. I’ve been working hard and I’m excited to go out and show my results,” he said.