“Meeting Burt Watson – being a fan myself, I’ve watched all the behind-the-scenes footage – so hearing his talk gave me some tingles,” Holdsworth on Wednesday told MMAjunkie. “I’m just embracing everything. I expected all of this, and it’s part of the journey in the life I chose.”
That journey took Holdsworth (4-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) to an unbeaten start to his MMA career, a spot on Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” and now, a chance to become the next winner of that show when he meets Davey Grant (8-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) at Saturday’s TUF 18 Finale.
The TUF 18 Finale takes place at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas with a main card on FOX Sports 1 following prelims on MMAjunkie. The card is headlined by a lightweight bout between Season 5 cast members Nate Diaz and Gray Maynard, both recent title challengers, but also will crown new winners in the men’s bantamweight division and, for the first time, the women’s bantamweight class.
Holdsworth, who was coach Miesha Tate’s second pick on the men’s side of things, reached the final courtesy of three submissions. He tapped eventual teammate Louis Fisette to get into the house, then subbed Chris Beal and Michael Wootten, all in the first round.
His opponent’s path to the final was a little easier. After submitting Fisette, Grant got a bye into the final when Anthony Gutierrez couldn’t make weight and was eliminated.
Holdsworth said he’s prepared for whatever version of Grant he might see – the submission artist, the heavy hitter, the aggressor.
“I think his style’s a little bit of a banger,” he said. “But he’s very well-rounded. Most of his fights have ended by submission. I’ve seen a few fights of his online, and of course his ones on the show. He’s a finisher. He’s very aggressive, hits hard and he comes forward a lot.”
Holdsworth trains with Team Alpha Male in Sacramento alongside UFC mainstays like Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes and Danny Castillo under coach Duane Ludwig, and he believes that experience is going to help him on Saturday, as well.
“I think just being around those guys has helped me a lot, seeing the whole process first-hand for myself,” he said. “I always envisioned that, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to go through that one day.’ You just have to take it all in and enjoy it.”
Plus, Holdsworth said he saw the signs – and it opened up his eyes.
“I remember the first season sitting on the couch watching Chris Leben, Forrest Griffin, seeing history happening,” he said. “I was still in high school. But I said, ‘Maybe one day, that’s what I want to do – I want to be on “The Ultimate Fighter.”‘ Eighteen seasons later, it’s a crazy dream come true. At the tryouts, they gave everyone a number, and I was 18. That was a sign – I’m a big believer in the signs, and I believe I’m going to be the next ‘Ultimate Fighter’ for Season 18.”