Calvin Kattar hopes to repeat what Sean O’Malley did to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 300

Calvin Kattar gets excited about any fight, but the opponents rarely matter.

His return at UFC 300 might mean more than usual, but not because he welcomes former bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling to 145 pounds. His elation this time comes from fighting for the first time since a torn ACL ended his October 2022 fight with Arnold Allen.

“I never put too much thoughts out there on what I’m expecting,” Kattar said on The MMA Hour. “I can’t control all the bulls***. I just try to stay as ready as possible. I knew the next one was going to be big, no matter who I was stepping across from. I feel like the last two fights were kind of tough for me, where last one was an injury, and the one prior I felt like I won. I feel like should be on at least a two-fight win streak, plus the injury. It’s just frustrating.

“It’s not the way it worked out, obviously. You can’t put energy into what you can’t control like that. All I can do is focus on come out and getting a strong rep on the next one and try to get me a ‘W’ here.”

The chance to fight on the historic UFC 300 card isn’t lost on Kattar. That opportunity was likely made possible by agreeing to be Sterling’s first featherweight opponent. For that, he is thankful. But really, he just wanted to wash out the bad taste from his previous outing.

“Not much, to be honest,” Kattar said of his reaction to Sterling as an opponent. “A little bit [surprised] in the fact that he’s a former champ, and that’s great, and you need tough opposition to get these big moment opportunities. Shout out to him for making this fight happen on such a historic card.

“I’m blessed [and] honored, but it would be the same if I was fighting anybody. The next fight’s always the biggest, no matter who it’s against. I didn’t put too much stock into who I was fighting.”

Sterling faces Kattar after his first loss in nearly six years when Sean O’Malley knocked him out at UFC 292 to claim the UFC bantamweight title. It was a somewhat shocking result given his run through the division, combined with O’Malley’s relative inexperience against top fighters in the division.

“I think Sean looked really good,” Kattar said about the fight. “I think he did a lot of small things really well in the little details. I was definitely a little surprised, but I knew that was a possibility, a high possibility, that could happen. Because Sean’s able to create that distance and make those shots land and those opportunities appear, and Aljo kind of walked right into those ones.

“I thought Aljo would have made it a little bit more of a dog fight. But hey, that’s the way it worked out.”

Because he’s returning from a serious knee injury that sidelined him for all of 2023, Kattar is primarily focused on himself rather than Sterling. That said, he knows his heavy hands combined with a potential size and power advantage could present Sterling the same kind of welcome to a new division as O’Malley did bouncing him out of his old one.

“You’ve got to be prepared for the best version,” Kattar said about Sterling. “A lot of people would say ‘oh a year and a half, you must have some ring rust.’ You put too much stock in that Aljo? Who gives a s***? People say a lot of s***. What’s going to matter is on fight night and it can go one of two ways.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to make it look like it did last August [for Sterling]. I’m prepared for a hell of a fight and I would love an early finish but I’m prepared for anything that presents itself on Saturday.”

As much as he’ll be asked about Sterling over the next few days leading into UFC 300, Kattar really didn’t care about the opponent or even landing on UFC 300.

His biggest concern was coming back healthy from the knee injury that sidedlined his career for over a year.

“Big opportunity obviously,” Kattar said. “But coming off a year and almost a half layoff, the next fight was big to me no matter who I was stepping across from and no matter what card I was on. Big moment for me to come back after a long layoff. Excited to put on a hell of a performance.”

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