Max Holloway talks potential Khabib Nurmagomedov unifier, being pound-for-pound No. 1
ATLANTA – Max Holloway’s definitive career goal is to become MMA’s top pound-for-pound fighter, and he’s willing to go through anyone to make that happen.
Holloway (20-3 MMA, 16-3 UFC), the current UFC featherweight champion, already has put together a remarkable 13-fight winning streak ahead of Saturday’s UFC 236 headliner with Dustin Poirier (24-5 MMA, 16-4 UFC). Holloway moves up to the lightweight division to fight for the interim 155-pound belt and is looking to put on another fine octagon performance.
The Hawaiian’s previous outing against Brian Ortega at UFC 231 in December was viewed pre-fight as perhaps his biggest career challenge. That did not materialize as “Blessed” finished Ortega by fourth-round TKO after setting a new UFC single-fight record for most significant strikes landed.
Poirier has said ahead that he is expecting some “Fight of the Night” or even “Fight of the Year” material when he enters the octagon with Holloway. That indicates a back-and-forth contest, though, and Holloway said he wants no part of that.
“I just think to myself, ‘Dominance, dominance,'” Holloway told MMA Junkie at UFC 236 media day. “This guy is not my equal. I’m not trying to go in there and fight my equal. I’m trying to go in there and make you guys scratch your head. The last fight, all you guys were saying that was going to be ‘Fight of the Year.’ At the end of it I wanted you guys to be like, ‘What was that?’ I had to lift up some of your guys’ jaws when I walked past the media table. When I think of the No. 1 pound-for-pound guy, I think of dominance. I think of someone just dominating.”
If Holloway can get past Poirier on Saturday at State Farm Arena, he will put himself in line for a title-unification matchup with lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. The undefeated Nurmagomedov (27-0 MMA, 11-0 UFC) was unavailable to defend his title at UFC 236 because of a suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission stemming from the post-fight melee after his UFC 229 win over Conor McGregor in October.
Reports have suggested that Nurmagomedov could return to the octagon in September, and “The Eagle” has claimed the UFC is planning a return to Abu Dhabi for the event. That would be Nurmagomedov’s territory, but Holloway embraces the potential challenge.
“I always wanted to go to Abu Dhabi,” Holloway said. “Everything goes great, we definitely going to get some cool ‘Embedded’ and on YouTube, follow me @BlessedMMA. We going to have some dope stuff. They’ve got indoor snowboarding. They got that jet thing stuff. We probably going to be out there doing some things where you guys are going to be scratching your head, ‘Why is Max Holloway doing that?’ It is what it is.
“If that’s the fight, that’s the fight. If it’s a fight back down (at featherweight), it’s a fight back down. Whatever takes me one step closer to being the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, put my name on the contract, and I’ll sign it.”
When the fight with Poirier first was announced for UFC 236, the organization hosted a press conference that included both athletes. Holloway said part of his motivation for taking the rematch with “The Diamond” – who handed him his first career loss at UFC 143 in February 2012 – was so that he could “prove” himself to Nurmagomedov.
Holloway said he holds Nurmagomedov in high regard and sees where he stands among the top pound-for-pound fighters. He wants that spot, though, and said handing Nurmagomedov his first career defeat would go a long way in making that happen.
“Everybody keeps saying that’s the guy, that’s the No. 1 pound-for-pound,” Holloway said. “The rankings and stuff got him right in front of me, but the whole world seems to think he’s the most dominant. When you talk about a pound-for-pound to me, it’s a dominance guy. He barely loses a round, and that’s a pound-for-pound guy. If that’s the guy, sign me up.”