Kurt Holobaugh eager to snap UFC skid in relaunched XFC’s lightweight tournament

Kurt Holobaugh throws a jab. Credit: UFC, Zuffa.

A loss can do a lot of damage to a fighter. Physically, of course, but also mentally. 

Multiple losses can do be even more destructive, and a losing streak can cause a fighter to call into question the type of work are putting in, or even his or her skillset.

UFC veteran Kurt Holobaugh (17-7) doesn’t seem to have those concerns ahead of his Xtreme Fighting Championships 43 bout with Joziro Boye (17-5-1).

His last three fights in the UFC were losses, all of which came at the hands of veritable contenders in the lightweight and featherweight divisions. Holobaugh suffered setbacks to Raoni Barcelos (15-1) and Shane Burgos (13-2), as well as former RFA lightweight champion Thiago Moises (13-4).

However, Holobaugh looks to the positives from an arduous run in the UFC. Competing against elite strikes like Barcelos and Burgos helped his game, says Holobaugh.

“Fighting those guys, with the speed of Barcelos and the precision of Shane Burgos, I think helps out a lot,” Holobaugh told MMA-Prospects.com. “You add those two guys together – those are two guys that I’ve done very well with. Those are two guys that are the best in the division, best in the UFC. I think this guy, [Boye], is going to bring a bit of a different style, though. I think his game is going to be different, but nothing that I haven’t seen before.”

Boye, who has won eight straight fights, does seem slower than Barcelos and doesn’t appear to be as willing to walk through the fire as Burgos, who has stood with every striker he’s faced.

Boye’s opponents to have had the most success against him have used forward pressure; France’s Nicholas Joannes did some damage against Boye up against the fence, and German champion Gaetano Pirrello knocked him out with a knee in the clinch.

Forward pressure, and engaging in a firefight, is exactly Holobaugh likes to do.

“Absolutely,” Holobaugh said of whether he can employ the kind of pressure needed to put Boye on the back foot. “Anyone that’s ever watched me fight [knows] I’m going to go forward and put the pressure on the guy. I think that’s a big attribute that’s going to help me out a lot in this fight. You can kind of see in some of this guy’s fights: when you start putting that pressure on him, he’ll put his back against the fence and let you throw, throw, throw until you kind of get gassed out. I don’t see [myself] getting tired and getting gassed out. Not if I’m the one on offense, punching the guy.”

Since his last fight in May of 2019 against Moises, Holobaugh has been working on his game as a whole, with an eye towards wrestling.

“Nothing in particular,” Holobaugh said of what he’s focused on. “Just working on my everyday game. Definitely always working on my wrestling, trying to get better being that it was one of my weak points throughout my career. If I’m working anything, it’s my wrestling and my jiu jitsu game.”

Pairing an improved wrestling game with his BJJ black belt skills is something that could be beneficial, especially when he stares across the XFC cage at Boye, who is primarily a striker.

Boye doesn’t seem to have any issue going to the ground with opponents, but he isn’t as much of a threat there. If the fight goes to the canvas, Holobaugh feels he has the advantage.

“I feel 110% confident that this guy has never faced a blue belt, let alone a black belt,” Holobaugh said. “Me being a black belt and training jiu jitsu for fifteen years, I don’t see any way this guy can give me any threats on the ground.”

Holobaugh has been training at Gracie Barra in Louisiana with Dennis Hughes (2-2), who just fought in the brand-new iKON Fight Federation, promoted on UFC Fight Pass in association with boxing legend Roy Jones Jr.

The former Titan FC champion’s goal on November 11 is to wipe those three UFC setbacks from the minds of MMA fans and show he is on a different level than Boye.

“This is a huge fight for me,” Holobaugh said. “I’m happy I stayed patient with all this time off and got presented with the right opportunity, the opportunity that really motivates me. I did lose my last three fights, but you have to look at those last three opponents. Those guys are some of the best guys in the UFC. This whole time, I know I’m one of the best and can compete at that highest level. With this opportunity here, a win is going to be huge.”

Holobaugh faces Boye in the opening round of XFC’s lightweight tournament. The promotion, which airs on NBC Sports, is relaunching as a publicly-traded MMA promotion with an emphasis on the tournament format and developing new talent.

The lightweight tournament also includes Contender Series winner Kenny Cross, the lone man to beat UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, Jose Caceres; top Canadian prospect Tom O’Connor, and others.