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Max Holloway doesn’t believe Conor McGregor will ever fight at featherweight again

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

PHOENIX -- One figure lost amongst the drama surrounding Conor McGregor and the featherweight division is Max Holloway, the surging 24-year-old Hawaiian who has won a division-best eight consecutive fights.

Despite his momentum, Holloway ended up being the odd man out at UFC 200. And while he insists that he sees the merits of what McGregor is attempting to do in the upper weight classes, Holloway also can't help but wonder if featherweight has seen the last of its UFC champion.

"At the end of the day, who knows if he comes back to 145? Honestly, my feeling, I don't think that he does," Holloway told MMA Fighting. "I think that 155-pound fight (against dos Anjos) was already saying that he just wanted to be at 155, hold the two titles, say that he did it, then just move up full-time. That's what I thought he was thinking of doing, because he's a big guy. All you hear of him is struggling to make 145. This guy struggles. You see, all he does is [cut weight] all week long.

"So he was going to go up sooner or later. Then you see him getting bigger every fight. ... His last fight, he was a big boy. And he already had a hard time cutting. [With him] going back up to 170, I think he's going to gain weight and have to cut a little, just trying to compete at that level, at 170. So who knows if he's coming down?"

McGregor is set to rematch Nate Diaz in a welterweight contest on July 9 in the main event of UFC 200. With the Irishman's belt on hold, the featherweight division's next two noisiest contenders -- Frankie Edgar and former champion Jose Aldo -- are slated to vie for the strangest of interim titles on the very same card, forcing Holloway to be quietly shuttled into the background without a fight to make against one of featherweight's elite.

The situation is frustrating for Holloway because while Edgar and Aldo spent much of the past few months solely calling out McGregor, Holloway made it clear that he wanted a fight against any one of the division's top-three. He never got it though, despite a résumé that includes five finishes over eight straight wins, and is highlighted by victories over Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, and most recently, Jeremy Stephens.

"I just feel left out because my last fight wasn't a finish," Holloway said. "When I was finishing guys, the media was on me like crazy. Then I have this one decision fight against a guy (Stephens) who, 'Cowboy' Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, these guys couldn't finish him. And then [people are] looking at me, asking me how the hell I didn't finish him. It's like, look at these guys. These guys are beasts and they had a hard time with the fight too. They couldn't finish him either.

"So I'm a true believer in, people only remember you for your last fight. And my last fight, I felt, was great, but I guess some people didn't think it was so hot. So it is what it is."

At this point, Holloway simply wants to fight. More than three months have passed since he outpointed Stephens at UFC 194, and after keeping an extremely active schedule in each of the last two years, Holloway is beginning to worry whether 2016 will bring more waiting around than actual competing.

"I want to get back in there and I want to get busy," Holloway said. "I've been telling everybody, I've had four fights each in back-to-back years. One fight was in January [in 2014], and then last year my first fight was in February. Now, it's like the end of March and I have no fight. I'm not even booked yet. I would like to get back in June or July. The UFC 200 card, that big one, or June on that big Weidman-Rockhold card (at UFC 199). But still, look, that's almost half the year. Half the year is almost gone by fighting there, so I want to get busy."

At his young age, Holloway knows that his time at the top will come. Eventually, featherweight's upper echelon will figure out whether the belt McGregor holds is one to be defended, or if Edgar-Aldo 2 will simply end up deciding a new champion. If that process takes longer than expected, Holloway won't complain. He only wants to be in prime position once it happens, even if means running his hot streak of wins into the double digits in the meantime.

"If it takes 10, 12, 13... I'll just keep going," he insisted. "Because like I said, I want to just prove I'm the best in the world. So if I have to keep proving it, I'm going to go out there and keep proving it. But at the end of the day, I want those big money fights. So whenever the big money fights start rolling in, that should be fun. But I don't know. Who knows? The UFC has a mind of its own. Whatever they want to do, I'm down for. Just keep me active, please. That's all I ask the UFC to do. Keep me active."