Photo Credit: Titan Fighting Championship

UFC Boise: Kurt Holobaugh glad to put IV suspension in the past; predicts finish of Raoni Barcelos

This Saturday’s UFC Boise card is one of the promotion’s deepest of the year.

Buried among the prelims is a major prospective matchup. Former Titan FC Interim Lightweight Champion Kurt Holobaugh (17-4, 0-1 UFC) will finally make his long-awaited UFC return against former RFA Featherweight Champion Raoni Barcelos (11-1, 0-0 UFC).

Louisiana’s Holobaugh has been on the shelf since last summer and not by his own accord. After defeating Matt Bessette on the series premier of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, the 31-year-old ran into some difficulties with the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

While he wasn’t under the jurisdiction of USADA, Holobaugh was unaware that an IV-ban extended beyond the UFC’s drug testing partner. On top of being unaware of the rule, miscommunications among the commission and Holobaugh’s team furthered issues.

When filling out forms for a potential UFC bout against Julio Arce at UFC Norfolk, Holobaugh wrote he had taken saline ahead of the Contender Series clash.

Despite UFC officials and commission members telling Holobaugh on the morning of the Contender Series weigh-ins it was acceptable to inject fluids, he was inexplicably flagged for his usage. Essentially, the issues which ultimately lead to the suspension were a result of Holobaugh’s own admittance.

In addition to a nine-month suspension, Holobaugh’s win over Bessette was overturned.

“It was a huge misunderstanding,” explained Holobaugh in an interview with MMA Today. “The thing about it is that I didn’t even have to say anything. It wasn’t like I was trying to hide anything. For everybody that said that I was cheating — taking an IV is a common thing. In certain promotions and certain states, it’s not allowed —  but for the majority they are. So it’s not like I was trying to cheat or anything. I told on myself.”

This past October, Holobaugh was suspended nine months retroactive to his July 2017 appearance. From there, more paperwork issues lead to greater delays this past Spring.

After much stress, confusion, and frustration, Holobaugh finally has his sight set on a date and an opponent for his UFC return. He couldn’t be happier to leave the debacle in the past.

“It really feels good to put all of that other stuff behind me and finally get an opponent in the UFC,” said Holobaugh. “For the past couple of years, I’ve felt like that’s where I’ve belonged. I belong on the big show. Finally, it’s here. It’s time.”

Even in his time off, Holobaugh trained full time as if he has a fight on the horizon. The continued work and discipline seems to have paid off. Once brutally miserable, the weight cut to featherweight has become relatively easy for Holobaugh.

“My weight has never been as low as it is now,” described Holobaugh three weeks before the fight. “I’ve never felt as great as I do now. You hear these guys say that over and over, but for my situation right now, it’s true. I’ve had nine months just to sit back and get better at everything. My conditioning is great right now. My weight is great right now. I’m looking to be the best ever.”

Come fight night, Holobaugh will have a tough test standing in his way. Barcelos is a legitimate opponent, whose UFC debut fight fans have long sought after.

“I think he’s an extremely talent fighter, but I still think I’ve got the advantage in this fight,” said Holobaugh. “Not taking anything away from the guy, I just think it’s a good matchup for me personally.

“He has competed at 145 pounds, but his real weight class is between 135 and 145,” continued Holobaugh. “My weight class is balanced between 145 and 155. I’m looking to be the bigger, stronger guy.”

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Unlike many of his fellow Contender Series signees, Holobaugh’s first fight after the show won’t be his UFC debut. Back in 2013 at UFC 159, Holobaugh made his UFC debut against Steven Siler after being absorbed by the promotion as part of the Strikeforce deal.

That night, Siler defeated Holobaugh by three-round unanimous decision. Since then, Holobaugh has been working towards his shot at redemption. A victory in the world’s largest mixed martial arts promotion would mean the world to Holobaugh.

“It would really mean everything, one hundred percent everything,” said Holobaugh. “I need this first win in the UFC. No doubt about it this my most important fight ever. My career really rides on this win, so that’s why I’m doing everything I can to make sure I’m one hundred percent ready, leaving nothing behind. I’m ready to go out there and get it.”

If all goes according to plan, Holobaugh believes he will make a statement, finishing the Brazilian late in the fight.

“I really think that he won’t be able to deal with the kind of pressure I’m going to put on him,” predicted Holobaugh. “I think this fight is going to go a lot like the JZ [Cavalcante] fight. Second or third round I’m going to hurt him or force him to shoot. At some point, I’m going to get on top of him and when I start dropping the elbows and he’s looking for the way out, I think the ref is going to stop it.”


To learn more about Kurt Holobaugh, follow him on social media:

Facebook: Kurt Holobaugh
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Nolan King is a MMA Today senior columnist, writer and renowned MMA insider. Nolan's other freelance work can also be found on FloCombat, Tapology, and MMA Brasil.