It’s pretty rare to run into an experienced professional fighter that has spent his entire career at one gym. Most guys, given enough time, will have been to two or three different places, if not for overall training, to at least cross-train. But it is very rare to find a guy who has been to a few different “home camps” in less than two years.

Chris Holdsworth, recent winner of The Ultimate Fighter 18, became one of the youngest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts in the United States when he was 21 years old. That was only five years ago. About three and a half years ago, he made his pro MMA debut, but it was not out of Marc Laimon’s Cobra Kai BJJ, where he earned his black belt.

“I got an opportunity to move to Texas with Team Takedown, and I had my first professional fight, and things didn’t work out,” Holdsworth told The MMA Corner. “I was in Texas for about four months, had my first fight and moved back to southern California. I had to move back in with my mom for about eight months, and I was training out of a boxing/jiu-jitsu gym. I had my second and third pro fights while I was there, during that eight-month time. I was looking for my next step, to take me to that next level, and I had the opportunity to move to Sacramento, and I jumped on it.”

In barely over a year, Holdsworth had left Las Vegas, circled through the south and moved back out west, all the while racking up a 3-0 MMA record and submitting all of his opponents in two minutes or less. Then came time for a big move, not geographically, per se, but the biggest jump of his career.

“I was seeking a new gym, and a good team to train with—training partners around my same size,” explained the California native. “I knew Urijah [Faber] a little bit, just through the grappling circuit, and, of course, fighting, so we had talked a couple times. It wasn’t like he tried to recruit me or anything. I’m not your normal Team Alpha Male fighter, you know, a short wrestler, which a lot of those guys are. I’m kind of your tall, lanky jiu-jitsu guy, or all-around fighter.

“I had my fourth professional fight when I was with the team, then got the [TUF] tryout, then got on the show.”

In November 2012, Holdsworth was at his fourth gym in two years. He was still undefeated and had racked up another submission victory, this time in the second round. A year later, he had finished taping his TUF season and was back at Alpha Male, training with his team and their new head coach, Duane “Bang” Ludwig. Holdsworth was getting ready for the fight of his life—his fifth pro fight.

During his TUF run, Holdsworth, who was on Miesha Tate’s team, went 3-0 in elimination and tournament fights, which, to no surprise, were all submission victories. On Nov. 30, he was set to face Britain’s Davey Grant, who entered the season on an eight-fight winning streak. All but one of Grant’s previous wins were by submission, but he had been submitted once, in his first fight, so Holdsworth knew it wasn’t impossible. Combining that knowledge with his exposure on the show, the youngster had great confidence going into the season finale.

“I got to see him fight a few times on the show,” said Holdsworth. “I knew he was a great opponent, and he was well rounded. He’s a heavy hitter. I went in with a game plan, and I was able to implement it. The second round, I was able to get to the ground and lock up that rear-naked choke, which finished the fight.”

The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale brought Holdsworth’s overall record to 5-0, all by submission, and the experience was one to remember forever.

“It was definitely worth it,” Holdsworth elaborated. “It was one of those experiences you can always look back on and say you accomplished something big. I can always tell my family and friends one day, ‘I just cherish that moment of becoming The Ultimate Fighter.’ It was a great moment for me—not only me, but my parents, my friends and family, my fans, everyone.”

To the victor goes the spoils, and winning TUF brought the young up-and-comer a UFC contract. His first fight under his new contract takes place this Saturday night at UFC 173, live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena, back in Las Vegas.

About three months ago, Holdsworth found out he was going to be facing Kyung-Ho Kang, but Kang was later pulled due to injury and replaced by 18-fight veteran Chico Camus, who is already 3-1 in the Octagon.

Camus, who fights out of the famed Roufusport camp in Milwaukee, is a tough, well-rounded grinder with four wins by knockout, three by submission and seven by decision. Most of his recent fights have ended in decision, outside of his sole UFC loss by submission to Dustin Kimura. Holdsworth is very aware of the danger Camus poses.

“He’s a good fighter,” Holdsworth admitted. “He’s well rounded. He comes to bang. He’s not just going to lay down and accept defeat. He stays fighting, and I think it’s going to be a great fight for the fans. It’s a great fight for me, and I’m going to be able to showcase a little more of what I’ve been working on.

“I think it’s going to be a war, man. I think the first round, we’re going to feel each other out, just like any other fight. But, I think once he feels my striking a little bit, he’s going to be like, ‘Oh, man. I didn’t know this guy can bang,’ and he’ll probably look for a takedown like he usually does. If I see one, I’ll capitalize on the opportunity, but no rush for the takedown. I’m willing to stand and bang, but if I see the opportunity, I’m going to take it.”

Even though Holdsworth’s bread and butter is submission grappling, his time spent at a boxing gym and then Team Alpha Male has really helped improve on his striking game. With the addition of Ludwig, it has only exponentially gotten better.

“My striking has improved a lot since he’s been here,” Holdsworth stated. “I’ve been able to showcase a little bit more of my striking and get a little bit closer to that KO I want one day. Hopefully, that will happen soon. You can’t really be gunning for the KO all the time or trying to knock somebody out. When you’re trying to do it, it doesn’t really happen that way. It usually happens when you least expect it. You hit him with that perfect shot, and it happens.”

Unfortunately, it was recently announced that Ludwig will be leaving Alpha Male after UFC 173 and moving back to his home state to open up his own gym, which will likely be an addition to his already growing BANG Muay Thai affiliate program. Although some members of the team are okay with the move, Holdsworth will definitely miss his current striking coach.

“It sucks that he’s going to have to leave and go back to Colorado,” Holdsworth intimated. “He’s invested so much time, and I’ve got a great relationship with him. I really look up to him as a coach.”

While Ludwig is leaving the team, they did pick up a lot of his training techniques, and with Martin Kampmann coming in as a temporary head coach until the position is filled, there will be no shortage of great strikers who would love to work with an established and dominant group like Team Alpha Male. That being said, striking is not even what the team is known for, as the camp is chock-full of fantastic wrestlers.

“I think my wrestling has improved a lot,” said the BJJ black belt. “I did a little wrestling before I came, but I think, now, it’s a lot different. I try to be on top a lot more in training as well. Before, I wouldn’t care if I went to my back, because I’m comfortable there. But, in fighting, you’re losing the fight if you’re on your back. I just think, being out here in Sacramento, I’ve become a little bit more aggressive and try to be on top. My transitions or my overall pressure has gotten a lot better, too.”

With a dynamic background and many great gyms like Holdsworth has had in such a short period of time, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, and come Saturday night, Camus is going to get a firsthand view of what this kid is all about.

Holdsworth is a man driven by amazing work ethic, and what he lacks in experience, he is ready to show the world he will greatly make up for in talent and a grind of his own.

“I just want people to know that I’m a true martial artist. I don’t do this on the weekends or train once a day and call myself a UFC fighter. This is a full-time lifestyle for me. I train my ass off. I put in my time. If you’ve heard my motto before, it’s ‘HWPO’—‘hard work pays off’—and I’m a firm believer in that. I work hard every day, and I’m going to show that.”

Holdsworth would like to thank all of his family, friends, fans, training partners and coaches at Team Alpha Male. He would also like to thank his sponsors: The Memory Tag, Onnit Supplements, Training Mask, Booster Fight Gear, Torque1.com, NEWtrition4life, American Icon Autographs, SmartStop Self Storage, Harbage Consulting, instaloan, and DrSchlang.com. Follow Chris on Twitter: @Holdsworth135