Brad Katona has been nothing if not forthright when it comes to opponent Merab Dvalishvili at UFC Ottawa. That includes recognizing that Merab brings “deadly pressure” to his fights.
Ottawa, ON — Brad Katona is a Winnipeg-born transplant fighting out of SBG Ireland, but this Saturday at UFC Ottawa, he’ll be in Canada’s capital, getting the toughest test of his career to date. If that sounds cliche, well, cliches would pop up at Thursday’s media day ahead of the card, numerically UFC Fight Night 151.
“Training was great. You always hear fighters say ‘it was the best camp ever,’ but it was the best camp ever,” Katona (8-0) opened. Another cliche. Yet as good as camp was, “it was difficult. We tweaked everything, we took it up a notch. Each time we get closer to my line of breaking, essentially. This one it was going against the biggest, toughest opponents I’ve ever been with.” It’s likely not hyperbole, in this case.
“The conditioning was pushed up that extra little degree. So everything was dialed up that little bit more, because last camp went perfectly well,” Katona added. “This one went swimmingly as well, we just dialed it up that little bit more, cranked it to 11, because we’ve got a tough opponent in front of us.” You’ll have to forgive Katona if he sounds like any number of hockey players in post-game interviews. He is Canadian, after all.
In any case, that tough opponent is Merab Dvalishvili (8-4). Katona has gone on record saying that a finish, especially a quick finish, against Dvalishvili is unlikely. Asked about the keys to victory, keeping that in mind, Katona stated that “the key is to stay on a sharp the entire fight. It’s going to be, potentially, a long fifteen minutes. He pushes forward no matter how tired he is, no matter what he’s been hit with.” Katona, clearly, has done his homework.
“That wears on some fighters. You can see it in some of his past opponents. They can’t seem to stop the pressure that is Merab. He puts on deadly pressure,” Katona elaborated. “For me, it’s not getting relaxed, getting comfortable in there where I can be caught with something.”
Speaking of comfort level, SBG Ireland coach John Kavanagh will not be in Katona’s corner at UFC Ottawa. Instead, his old coach, Curtis Brigham, will take over. It’s a situation Katona was aware of in advance, as there’s a Bellator show in Birmingham the same night.
“When we took this fight we knew John wouldn’t be able to make it,” Katona told Cageside Press Thursday. “So that was always in our head, it wasn’t some last minute change. The preparation’s been done weeks in advance. We prepared for this, we prepared for John not to be there.”
Katona doesn’t think it should matter at this point, however. “This feels like one of those fights where the small little tidbits of advice your corner’s going to give you isn’t going to change the outcome,” he pointed out. “If anything in my game gets exploited in this fight and we’re not able to get the win, it’s because we didn’t do our work months ago. It’s not because of anything in the fifteen minutes of advice that he could tell me.”
Calling Brigham “the second best corner I could ask for,” it’s clear Katona is confident heading in. We’ll know Saturday night in his best camp yet, and that confidence, pays off.
UFC Ottawa takes place May 4 at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON. The card airs live on ESPN+/TSN.