Prior to June of this year, the name Chris Holland may not have registered on the radar of the MMA world outside of his native Colorado. But after “The Hammer” scored a second-round TKO win over UFC and Pride veteran Phil Baroni at Ring of Fire 43 in June, others began to take notice of the heavy-handed slugger.

As a reward for yet another stoppage victory, Holland was given a three-fight contract with the AXS TV-broadcast Titan Fighting Championship. He will make his promotional debut on Friday, Aug. 24, at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan.

What has made Holland a fan favorite thus far in his career has been his “go big or go home” attitude. In his 16 combined amateur and professional fights, he has never seen the judges’ scorecards. Against Baroni, Holland persevered through a tough opening round to earn a win.

Holland (L) battles Phil Baroni (John Burkard)

“I’m always happy with just trading punches and seeing what happens. Win or lose, I like fighting that way,” Holland told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “The biggest thing I learned in that fight is that I can decisively lose a round and take some heavy shots, but find it within myself to keep fighting and to win. Coming back from being hurt, like I was, taught me a lot about myself.”

It wasn’t just Baroni’s attack on the feet that Holland overcame in June. The usually aggressive Baroni opted to use his wrestling in the first frame, which caught Holland off guard.

“The whole time he was talking about standing up and banging; next thing I know, he’s hurt and shooting,” recalled the welterweight. “I think the reason he got me down like he did is because I was in complete shock that he was going for a takedown.”

Holland’s feeling of surprise in the initial stanza was soon replaced by a feeling of joy in the second after the referee halted the bout due to strikes.

“I was almost in tears,” admitted Holland. “It wasn’t so much the fact that I beat Baroni, because I had played that scenario so many times in my mind, but [after I won] I felt a wave of emotions from the fans in the arena. It was an overwhelming feeling. I can’t even describe it.”

Now on a three-fight winning streak, Holland will look to add to his knockout total against a very different kind of opponent in the Titan 24 co-main event. Making his MMA debut opposite Holland will be world-renowned grappling ace Braulio Estima.

“I’m very excited for this fight,” said Holland. “I’m really glad that Titan has enough faith in me and my abilities to take on someone with the talent of Estima. I’m not going to let them down.”

On paper, it might appear to the casual fan that Estima would be a step down in competition from a grizzled veteran like Baroni, but Holland believes otherwise.

“I think he’s a step up from Baroni,” Holland stated. “Baroni was one of the best strikers in his time, but his time has come and gone. Estima could still go against anybody in the world in grappling and win. That’s how good he is. He’s absolutely a step up.”

Now with the multi-time World champion and ADCC winner Estima stepping into the cage for the first time, Holland knows that his experience of not only competing in MMA, but fighting in the spotlight is an edge leading into the fight.

“I’ve had 16 [total] fights; that is going to be a huge advantage,” explained the Colorado fighter. “This will be my seventh main or co-main event since going pro. I’ve fought with a lot of pressure. He’s never fought MMA, so now he’s the one fighting with the pressure. I’m sure he’s always the favorite when he is grappling, but now he gets to feel what it’s like to be in my world.

“Plus, I’ve had some grappling matches…about nine of them. So what’s up, Braulio?” joked Holland about how he stacks up against the dangerous BJJ black belt.

Despite Holland’s light-hearted nature, he’s still taking the fight very seriously. With a seven-week long camp to prepare, the 36-year-old has worked hard for the challenge that Estima brings.

“I’ve never been worried about being taken down before, but now that’s a legitimate concern,” declared Holland. “It’s been the complete opposite. Usually I’m the one who wants to get inside, take someone down, rough them up, and make them tired.

Holland (L) celebrates his victory (John Burkard)

“I’m pretty sure of what he’s going to try to do. He’s going to try to close the distance right away, push me against the cage, work the clinch and try to get a takedown. I don’t think he is going to be too comfortable shooting, but I think he’ll try to close the distance. I’m ready for that.”

Additionally, Holland is confident that his team and coaches at Factory X Muay Thai have him in the best shape of his career heading into Friday’s fight.

“I can honestly say I finally got it right with my body, mind and diet,” said the fighter. “I’m training six days a week. Without a doubt, this will be the best Chris Holland to ever fight in a cage. I feel like the Terminator.”

Even with his confidence at an all-time high, Holland’s take on the match-up is very cut and dry. And just like all of his previous fights, he doesn’t envision this fight making it to the scorecards.

“I don’t think it will go three rounds,” Holland predicted. “I don’t think he can take punches for 15 minutes, and I surely can’t defend submission attempts for 15 minutes.

“I think it’s really simple. If this fight stays on the feet, I win; if this fight goes to the mat, he wins. It’s no secret—if it goes to the ground, I’m playing with a shark and I don’t swim too well. It’s a matter of me doing everything I can to not allow that; it’s got to stay on the feet.”

Chris would like to thank everyone at Factory X Muay Thai, especially his coaches Marc Montoya and JJ Pugsley and all of his training partners. Also Jason and Jordan at his new management team, Ingrained Media. Finally his sponsors: Hatewear and Jamey Jasta, MMA Overload and Intimidation Clothing. Follow him on Twitter: @HammerTime528

Top Photo: Chris Holland (Casey O’Day/CMO Photo)