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Max Holloway’s reaction to interim title shot and featherweight shake-up: ‘Whole lot of sh*t’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Of all the players that may have benefitted from the UFC’s recent decision to strip featherweight champion Conor McGregor of the title and award it outright to interim champion Jose Aldo, perhaps none did so more than Max Holloway.

The soon-to-be 25-year old Holloway didn’t have a very clear path back to a title shot, despite winning nine straight bouts. He lost to McGregor back in 2013 via unanimous decision. And Aldo, whom he’s been calling out for the last few months, has turned a deaf ear on him.

Now Holloway — who now fights Anthony Pettis for the interim featherweight title (or the right to fight Jose Aldo) in the main event at UFC 206 in Toronto — controls his destiny a little better. A win versus Pettis means he gets that crack at Aldo. A win over Aldo and, who knows, the Irishman that is now lording over the light division may come calling again.

"Maybe if everything goes good and I take care of Pettis, and we get the road to Aldo and I take care of Aldo, maybe it makes [McGregor] want to come back down," Holloway said during Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "I’m only turning 25 this Sunday, so there’s this thing called growing. Now I’m growing, I getting bigger.

"So if it’s at 155, it’s going to be at 155, if it’s at 170, it’ll be at 170, wherever it goes. If he wants to fight, even if he said he wants to fight heavyweight, I will go fight him. It is what it is. If he wants to fight, that’s the fight to make. It’s one of them fights a lot of people want to see, and can’t really go too far from me. I’m Polynesian, so I can get big."

Holloway said he was delivered the news that his three-round contender’s fight with Pettis was now a five-round main event for the interim title on Friday, and that a reconfigured bout agreement was signed on Saturday. The new fight will deliver him more money and a big showcase spot on a pay-per-view, something Holloway hasn’t done before.

What was his reaction to the featherweight shake-up?

"Whole lot of sh*t," he told Ariel Helwani. "It’s like domino effects, it’s crazy man. But it’s like my nickname, I’m blessed to be in this opportunity, I’m blessed to do my first main event on a pay-per-view, and my first title shot even though it’s an interim. It’s been a long time coming. So I’m just excited man. People want to see what hard work is, tune in Dec. 10 and I’m going to show you guys what hard work is."

Holloway, who scored a unanimous decision in his last fight against Ricardo Lamas at UFC 199 in June, said he wasn’t exactly surprised that the UFC opted to take one of McGregor’s two belts away, especially since he hasn’t defended the featherweight title since winning it back at UFC 194 in Dec. 2015.

"They was saying it forever," he said. "They said they were going to do it before or right after, so it is what it is. Conor is taking a break anyway too, he’s focusing on having a kid or whatever, and he’s going to be gone for a while.

"Our division was in murky water because of that. After this fight I had no idea who I’d be able to fight, because of him taking out and [Aldo] having the interim title and all this blasphemy and this malarkiness. Now it’s super-clear. The winner of this get Aldo, and the division is way more clear."

A lot of people were caught off guard by the logic of awarding Aldo the title and making Pettis-Holloway an interim title fight. Realistically, the belt on display on Dec. 10 will be a promise ring for that date with Aldo to unify the titles.

Asked if an "interim" title was fulfilling enough, or if it felt like an empty gesture, Holloway says if nothing else the division will have gained some much-needed clarity.

"At the end of the day, Aldo had the chance to fight," he said. "There were rumors of us fighting at [UFC] 205, and there were rumors of us fighting here at [UFC] 206, but the motherf*cker kept saying no, so we’ll see what happens. With all these things going on this makes it super-clear, whoever wins gets Aldo next. And everybody knows how vocal I’ve been with Aldo, so everything go good, the road is straight, and Aldo is going to be next, and they say it’s for undisputed.

"Worse comes to worse, I don’t really care. All I want to do is prove I’m the best in the world, and come Dec. 10 it’s going to be one more step towards greatness."

Holloway has continuously challenged — and lambasted — Aldo since McGregor has been roaming in other weight classes. He didn’t hold back from taking one more shot when discussing whether or not Aldo would go through with the fight, should he get by Pettis.

"I don’t know man, if everything go real good I’ll get my hand raised," he said. "And everybody know what I’ve been saying, he got that disease, pussyitis, and there’s one guy that’s got the vaccine and his name’s Max Holloway. So he can come see me if he ever wants the vaccine, but if not he can do whatever the hell he wants to do. He said he wants to go play soccer or something? Good for him. But at the end of the day, if he wants to see me, he can see me.

"But first thing’s first, it’s Pettis. The guy is a former champion in the world, and he knows what it takes to this position, and I’m fully focused on him. And everything all goes good, then I’ll have some words for Aldo after the fight."