Saturday night special: No. 4 ranked Kattar inches closer to title bout

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Jun. 16—It's a tough, tough world at the top of the UFC food chain.

You win, you take a step forward. You lose, you take two steps back.

Methuen-born-and-bred Calvin Kattar, though, was so impressive in his only loss the last four years, showing that he could take so much punishment without going down, that he barely took a step back in his tough loss to one of the sport's all-time legends Max Holloway.

A year later he did to Giga Chikadze what Holloway did to him. Kattar dominated him.

Ranked the No. 4 challenger now, Kattar faces No. 7 Josh Emmett on Saturday night as the main event.

If Kattar wins, he's in line to get a spot or two or three closer to a UFC Featherweight title. If Kattar, a 5-2 favorite (bet $250 to win $100), loses, at 34 years old, a future title bout may never happen.

"It's a tough sport, no doubt about it," said Kattar. "But this is what I signed up for. I have no problem with these stakes. I'm not afraid of the competition. When I started this journey all I wanted was a shot with the best, and that's what I am getting."

The featherweight champ, Alex Volkanovski, is fighting Holloway, the No. 1 contender, on July 2.

Kattar says that bout, at least today, and an eventual shot at the title is not on his mind. Only Emmett is.

"He brings a lot of power and movement from the opening bell to final bell," said Kattar. "I have to be disciplined all 25 minutes; stick to the game plan. He's here for a reason. Like I did, he's won some big fights to get here. He's proving to be one of the best."

One thing Kattar has learned the last few years fighting guys in the top 10, is that weaknesses and mistakes are usually exposed.

"The higher you go, the better the competition is," said Kattar. "The top 10 and top 5 guys are not only very good and very tough, but they are elite tacticians. You have to be prepared mentally and physically. And you can't be afraid to make a mistake. You have to be aggressive."

This UFC card is in Austin, Tex., which happens to be only 40 minutes away from where his sister lives in New Braunfels, Tex. His sister gave birth to Kattar's nephew, a month ago.

"Honestly, I would've come here to visit my sister and my new nephew," said Kattar. "But this worked out perfectly. I was able to spend some great family time with them. My sister married a cowboy. He's all Texas. It's different here, but it's pretty nice."

Per the norm, the Kattar entourage is expected to be a big one on Saturday night in Austin.

About 50 tickets have been saved for his family and friend group, a loud one at that.

"That's my calling card. I have a great support system and people who have backed me back to when I first started in MMA," said Kattar. "It really gives me inspiration. I can hear them yelling and cheering. It is definitely a motivator for me."

In fact, through his sister and brother-in-law, Kattar is acquiring in fans from Texas, too.

"It was pretty cool to be out here visiting family, in Texas, and I'm on the billboard, a guy from Methuen," said Kattar.

"I like the cowboy image, the hat, the boots and the belt. I don't have any yet, but I will be looking after the fight," he said. "In fact, I really like the belts."