Max Holloway will be a man on a mission when he marches on his upcoming interim title fight against Dustin Poirier at UFC 236 this April.
With reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov likely to sit out for a year, the Nevada-based promotion has decided to create an interim title.
“Blessed” will make his long-awaited move to the 155-pound class, following a monster performance against Brian Ortega at UFC 231 in December.
He coasted to a fourth-round doctor stoppage win to keep his hold of the throne in the featherweight division.
Holloway, who has three losses in his UFC record – one coming from Poirier- is looking to avenge his defeat from ‘The Diamond” in his debut seven years ago.
Aside from settling the score with Poirier, Holloway said he has one ultimate goal in this fight, and that is to prove himself to the Russian champ that he is a worthy opponent for the undisputed lightweight title.
— MMA Junkie (@MMAjunkie) December 11, 2018
Holloway returned to the Octagon last December and showed no signs of rust after a year of layoff as he dominated Ortega in four thrilling rounds at UFC 231 in Toronto, Canada.
Ahead of the fight, there were plenty of questions surrounding Holloway’s condition, whether he could bring out his A-game against an undefeated challenger, who was riding on a six-fight winning streak all via stoppage.
The Hawaiian fan favourite shut down all naysayers and let his dominant performance did the talking.
He was impressive from the get-go up to the fourth round, busting ‘T-City’ with his precise striking and powerful combos. At the end of the fourth, the doctors have to waive the fight off as Ortega’s face has been brutally damaged.
Move To 155
The victory solidified Holloway’s status as one of the greatest featherweights, if not the greatest featherweight of all-time.
However, with a 13-fight winning streak, which includes victories over big names like Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis, and a pair of successful title-defence, White feels it’s time for Holloway to leave the division and move up to 155.
“Listen, Max is a grown man and we need to talk but I’d like to see Max go to 155 now. I think that the guy is 27 going on 28 years old, he’s in the prime of his life, never looked better. Continues to improve every single fight that he’s in and I think he’s done everything he can do at 145.”
“Why keep cutting that weight and I think there are some big things for him at 55. If Holloway goes to 55, everybody in the top five is a fun fight for him,” the promotion chief claimed during the post-fight press conference.
— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) March 1, 2019
Holloway was scheduled to square off with the Russian champ in the main event of UFC 223 early last year, but the significant weight cut he endured has taken a toll to his body, forcing him to pull out of the gigantic clash.
It was the second time “Blessed” withdrew from a fight as he was also ruled ineligible to compete at UFC 222 against ex-lightweight champion Frankie Edgar after sustaining a leg injury.
Now, there is no stopping the featherweight in taking his talent at 155 as he is scheduled to lock horns with Poirier at UFC 236 in their rematch that is seven years in the making.
For this fight, Max has plenty of motivations. That includes winning another belt and proving himself to Nurmagomedov.
“Khabib said he wanted to fight me, but he wanted me to prove myself. I got Dustin. April 13, I decided to prove myself.”
“I’m going to go out there and prove myself, and when he’s ready to come back, I’ll be ready,” he said during a pre-fight presser.
“After that Ortega fight I had to take some time personally and some business stuff, then they came to me with this fight in April,”
“Can’t let it slip through your fingers. At the end of the day, first things first, I got Dustin Poirier, and we’ll talk to the UFC after that.
“I don’t think Frankie (Edgar) or Jose (Aldo) deserve a champ that’s not willing to defend for a year. After this one, I could go back down in the summer.”
“That would be fun. But first things first, April 13.”
UFC 236 is the promotion’s third pay-per-view event this year under the ESPN banner and will be held at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
Holloway vs Poirier 2 will headline the fight card, which will also feature another interim title bout between Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum.
(Featured Image Source: YouTube/MMA Junkie and Instagram/Khabib)