Holloway will switch classes to pursue greatness

MMA news

LOS ANGELES — Max Holloway has won an unprecedented 13 straight fights in the UFC’s featherweight division. He has dominated at 145 pounds for five years. Holloway, the champion of that weight class, admits now that he must leave featherweight in the future if he wants to achieve his ultimate goals.

Holloway said Thursday at a UFC media lunch that he believes he has to fight and win in other divisions in order to cement his legacy. One of the names that he brought up as a potential future opponent was undefeated UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“I want to be the best mixed martial artist in the world and being the best mixed martial artist in the world is not a guy who stays in his weight and dominates his weight,” Holloway said. “It is someone who goes to whatever weight. So whoever is the best guys in the world, you guys tell me. I’ve got a couple belts I want to fight for. The [lightweight], of course. You’ve got Khabib [Nurmagomedov], because he’s one of the best guys in the world.”

Holloway will defend his featherweight title against Alexander Volkanovski in the co-main event of UFC 245 on Dec. 15 in Las Vegas. If he beats Volkanovski, it’ll be Holloway’s fourth title defense. In total, he has won five straight title fights at 145 pounds and has held a belt — either interim or undisputed — in the weight class since 2016.

Earlier this year, Holloway (21-4) did make his first foray up a division. He fought Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title at UFC 236 on April 13, falling by unanimous decision. That was a relatively short-notice fight and has not deterred Holloway from moving up in the future. The Hawaii native said he believes he could realistically fight as heavy as middleweight (185 pounds) as long as he puts muscle onto his lanky, 5-foot-11 frame.

“I don’t know about holding belts all at one time,” Holloway said. “But nobody has gotten three at one time. I just turned 28. I can see myself to even getting to 185 and being healthy and getting strong there.”

Holloway said he’s not sure if a move up comes after Volkanovki, provided he wins that fight. That will be determined by the UFC and the state of the divisions. Right now, ESPN has Volkanovski ranked at No. 2 among featherweights. The two after him, Brian Ortega and Jose Aldo, Holloway has already beaten handily. Zabit Magomedsharipov, Yair Rodriguez and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung are all on the cusp of title opportunities, but not quite there yet.

“We’ll see what happens,” Holloway said. “I don’t know. A king defends his throne and my throne is here at ’45. But if there’s an opportunity at ’55, why not? If it’s defending or fighting for belts, whatever. It’s not even the belts that intrigue me. It’s being the best martial artist in the world that intrigues me. So whoever you think is the best guy, let me fight him. Let me at him. The belt is just the topping, the cherry on top.”

Holloway’s last loss at featherweight came against Conor McGregor in 2013. The two men often exchange barbs — mostly respectful ones — on social media. McGregor will return to the UFC in January against Donald Cerrone in the main event of UFC 246 in a welterweight (170 pounds) bout. Holloway is unsure if he and McGregor will ever cross paths again.

“If the Mystic Mac arrives, if he wants to be what he was a couple of years ago when he was the greatest mixed martial artist in the world and he wants to be the greatest again, I’m sure we’re gonna run into each other like that,” Holloway said.

Holloway, though, wants to make it clear that Volkanovski is his focus. Volkanovski (20-1) has won 17 straight, including all seven of his UFC fights. If he wins at UFC 245, Holloway said he’ll surely sit down sometime afterwards with UFC president Dana White and UFC general counsel Hunter Campbell and hammer out what is next.

“First thing first is Alex,” Holloway said. “And if the opportunity presents itself, I’m not backing down from it. I want to be one of the greatest in this era. As long as I’m alive and as long as I fight, whenever I’m fighting I want people to talk about, ‘Oh, man, he’s one of the greatest of his time.’ That’s what I want to do. First things first, Alex is a handful. I can’t be overlooking this guy. Most of the time, when guys overlook guys we see what happens.”

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