Back in the saddle: Kattar takes experience last year and returns to octagon | Sports

    Tom Brady gets anywhere from 17 to 20 opportunities every year to ply his craft, and really his passion.

    The best of the best NBA players get close to 100 events under the bright lights.

    And Major League Baseball players? Hell, they can get up to 175 different days to show off their talent.

    Methuen native and MMA fighter Calvin Kattar wasn’t so fortunate the last year.

    Kattar last fought on Jan. 16, 2021. Now, 364 days later, next Saturday night, he is back in the octagon, fighting as the co-main event on the “UFC Vegas 46” card.

    There were extenuating circumstances for his long wait. He got pounded pretty badly by Max Holloway last year, losing a five round unanimous decision.

    Kattar suffered a broken nose (his fourth) and needed eight staples to close a gash on his scalp, among many other bruises suffered at the hands of the all-time legend.

    He was ordered to take a six-month leave — medical suspension — and was ready in the late summer and fall, he said, to fight. But the opportunity never was there.

    Until this Saturday night against Giga Chikadze, who is 7-0 since joining the UFC and ranked the No. 8 featherweight in the world, three spots behind Kattar’s No. 5 ranking.

    Kattar has basically been in a three-month camp for this particular bout.

    “A year is a long time,” said Kattar. “It tests your patience. I like to be busy. I was looking to get a fight earlier than this, but it never happened. Maybe that’s for the better.

    “That was a tough fight against Holloway. Sometimes the hardest part of this business is taking time off, but it’s important to listen to your body, and rushing back, playing to emotion and ego, isn’t the smartest thing to do sometimes.”

    While Kattar hasn’t fought in almost a year, he has put the time in the gym, specifically the last six months.

    “We made a concerted effort not to fight for a while,” said Tyson Chartier, Kattar’s head coach, trainer and promoter who oversees the New England Cartel that also manages and trains the world No. 5 ranked bantamweight contender, Rob Font, of Haverhill.

    “There was no contact for six to seven months. Then we slowly got him back up to speed. But there was no problems when he got to full speed with hard training. He did everything he needed to do. and his mind is sharp.”

    The bout with Holloway, who is noted as one of the top mixed martial arts fighters of all-time, may go down as a tough, painful loss, but the learning experience … for fighter and trainer.

    “At the entry level you make mistakes and don’t get caught,” said Chartier. “Holloway has been a world champ for a reason. The margin of error at this level is so small. Even when they were winning, his team was making adjustments, staying ahead of us.

    “Trust me. It was a big learning experience.”

    Kattar learned that those mistakes, however small, can cost you a lot of time away from your sport.

    “In the fight game you don’t get a best out of seven,” said Kattar. “It’s one shot … one. You aren’t guaranteed of any trilogies or a rematch or anything. You have to earn that right. That’s what I’m doing now, trying to earn the next fight.

    “Just like (Dustin) Poirier did with (Conor) McGregor. It took him almost seven years, after losing to him, to get another shot. Then he knocked him out two times in a row. It happens. There’s no shame losing to a guy like Holloway.”

    While Chikadze is still figuring out his way up the UFC featherweight ladder, his style could make this an interesting chess match for the classic MMA fans.

    Chikadze was a top kick-boxer in his native country of Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, bordering Turkey and Azerbaijan on the Black Sea.

    Kattar is noted as one of the top “classic” boxers in his division.

    “He has my attention,” said Kattar of Chikadze. “He’s earned this fight and I’m excited for it. A year away, and yeah, I’m a little hungry to get back.”

    Kattar has nothing to prove. He’s near the top of the rankings; he’s entertaining; and the only way to the tippity top is a victory next Saturday night.

    “I’m never out there to prove out tough I was,” said Kattar, referring to comments last year about the way he hung around for five full rounds against an all-time great. “I know how tough I am. I’m here to win and earn my next shot.”

    You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune

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