Kurt Holobaugh has no official nickname at this point in his young career, but the 26-year-old Louisiana native could be called the “Bonus Hunter.”

After going 8-0 as an amateur and capturing a couple of title belts, Holobaugh compiled a 9-1 professional record and captured a couple more gold straps. In his combined pro and amateur careers, he has compiled 10 submission wins, four knockouts and has only been to a decision four times. Of his finishes, all but two came in the first round.

“I want to be one of those Joe Lauzon-type ‘Fight of the Night’ winners and I want to win the fight every time,” Holobaugh said in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I’m looking for a bonus. I’m looking for a knockout or submission, man.”

It’s hard to argue with Holobaugh. In his two-year, 10-fight pro career, his first loss didn’t come until his most recent fight, which was his toughest to date.

Holobaugh (L) scores a takedown (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

In January, at the final Strikeforce event, the Gulf Coast native faced veteran Pat Healy, who was on a five-fight Strikeforce winning streak. It was Holobaugh’s promotional debut and his first fight outside of his home region. To top things off, not only was he facing one of the top lightweights in the promotion, but he took the fight as an on extremely short notice as an injury replacement.

“It wasn’t a whole bunch of time, but I’m always training, so it wasn’t like I wasn’t in the gym,” explained Healy. “But I found out about it with about 10 days, so I really only trained for about a week, because they fly you out on that Tuesday and you fight that Saturday. So I got to do a little bit of work when I got there. They give us a workout room and everything, but at my gym, I only got to train about seven days.”

Although he had little time to prepare for what at the time was the biggest fight of his life, Holobaugh came in ready to fight. He went the distance with the vet, ultimately losing by unanimous decision. However, he doesn’t feel bad about his performance at all and really feels it was an important step in his career.

“I look at it as a learning experience,” admitted Holobaugh. “It was probably the best thing to happen to me so far in my MMA career, as crazy as that sounds. I’ve taken a lot from it. I don’t think a lack of training or any less training or any more training would have won that fight for me. It was just that I made a lot of rookie mistakes fighting that high level of an opponent. I think that some of the stuff that would normally work on some local opponents who are not as high level would’ve worked and would’ve won the fight. But, as high level as he is, I learned a lot and made a lot of mistakes. Now I know what I can and can’t do against guys like him.”

Although there were a few things he felt he could’ve done differently, his ground game, which has proven to be a strength in his fighting style, was what stuck out the most as something to work on going forward.

“I was too comfortable on my back against Pat Healy,” said Holobaugh. “Against guys like that and especially great grapplers like that, when you’re on your back, you’re not going to win the fight. You can’t be that comfortable on your back.”

In his 45-fight pro career, Healy has won 15 times by submission and lost by submission on six occasions, so he has a ton of experience with fights going to the ground. Holobaugh’s experience against Healy will be invaluable, considering the identity of his next opponent.

For the second time this year, Holobaugh got the call from Zuffa for an injury replacement. But this time, it’s on one of the biggest UFC cards of the year and it’s against a fellow 26-year-old submission specialist in featherweight Steven Siler.

Siler is an up-and-coming former contestant of The Ultimate Fighter who may be the same age as Holobaugh but has three times as many pro fights under his belt. Fighting out of The Pit Elevated in Orem, Utah, he has racked up a similar record to that of Healy, with 13 submission wins and five submission losses. The biggest difference between Siler and Healy is their size, but moving classes is familiar territory for Holobaugh.

Throughout his career, Holobaugh has fought across many weight classes. He started out in the welterweight division as an amateur, but capped that run with a drop to lightweight. Holobaugh then moved back to welterweight in his pro debut, before bouncing between lightweight and featherweight for most of his pro career. After his lightweight battle with Healy just three months ago, he will be dropping to 145 pounds for the Siler bout.

Even though the Siler bout is also a replacement match-up, Holobaugh has had a lot more time to prepare.

“I learned about Siler about five weeks out,” said the promotional newcomer. “So I’ve had time for a pretty good little training camp for it.”

Holobaugh trains out of Gracie United, which is a chain of gyms in the Gulf Coast region that includes locations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been with Gracie United for several years. It’s his home school, and he feels confident in his background.

“My coach is Rafael Ellwanger, and he’s a black belt under Carlos Gracie Jr.,” Holobaugh said. “He’s my head coach and the guy I’ve been training with ever since I got into MMA. And then I’ve got my boxing coaches and some good training partners.”

Holobaugh works for a submission (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

Holobaugh has faith in his camp and the benefit of a great learning experience in his fight with Healy. Those are the building blocks of his confidence going into his fight with Siler. And he feels really good about how he fares against his next opponent.

“Stylistically, I think it will be a great match-up,” explained Holobaugh. “Prior to his name coming up, I’d already been over the UFC featherweight roster a hundred times, so when they said that’s who I’d fight, I knew exactly who he was. Now that I’ve been watching his fights, we almost have similar fight styles. It’s like, ‘man, this is going to be a great fight.’ So, this could be ‘Fight of the Night.’

“I think it’s going to come down to who’s going to be able to capitalize on the other guy’s mistakes, whoever’s going to throw something to get the other guy off his game first.”

With 19 of their combined 41 pro fights ending in submission wins, one can be sure that this one will hit the mat at some point. The wild card in the fight could end up being the fact that although Siler wins most of his fights on the ground, Holobaugh has never been submitted (not even by Healy on short notice). Siler, on the other hand, has been finished on the ground, so this one could get interesting.

Therefore, Holobaugh’s expectation is no surprise.

“It will probably end in a submission,” he predicted. “I think we’re going to get into a big scrap, and the way we both finish fights is by submission. Neither one of us has a whole bunch of knockouts, but we beat guys up until they want to submit. That’s how it pretty much normally plays out for us.”

Well, with most people outside the Gulf Coast region having had little exposure to Holobaugh, he’s set up to make a huge impression on the UFC brass with a win over the much-hyped Siler. While he’s been getting ready for his consecutive fights, though, he is still able to maintain a little normality in his life.

When he’s not in the gym, Holobaugh has a few simple pastimes: food, family and football.

“Most of the time, I’m eating food,” Holobaugh elaborated. “If it’s football season, I’m watching the Saints every Sunday and spending a lot of time at home. I have three kids—Lauren, Zayden, and Aubree. I still spend a lot of time with them in camp. Some nights I get home at 8:30 or 9:00, but I still play with them and spend a lot of time with them.”

Holobaugh is getting ready for the biggest fight of his life on one of the biggest UFC cards of the year, but he still has time for his kids. He’s a father and a fighter who loves to eat and watch football. If that’s not the “American Way,” what is? But, this Saturday night at UFC 159 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., fans can be sure that the fireworks will fly as he enters the cage, 100 percent a fighter.

Top Photo: Kurt Holobaugh (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator