Max Holloway checked off a few milestones Saturday night.
The main event of UFC 218 in Detroit saw the featherweight champion once again defeat Jose Aldo by third-round TKO, an eerily similar ending to their previous encounter in June. Not only was this Holloway’s first title defense, it was also the first time that the 145-pound belt has been successfully defended since Oct. 25, 2014.
That was Aldo’s seventh and the last win of his first UFC championship run. He would go on to drop the title to Conor McGregor, who moved up to lightweight without recording a single defense.
At the UFC 218 post-fight presser, Holloway expressed the importance of staying in his division for now and putting together a run of dominance to rival that of any MMA great.
“This is what champions do, champions defend,” Holloway said. “They always say you’re not a champion until you defend your title. I always wanted to bring stability and I wanted to prove to people if you want to be a champion this is what you gotta do. It’s like me, it took me 10 fights to get an interim title and 11 for the undisputed. I don’t want anybody else to go through that.
“I want to be like DJ (Demetrious Johnson). As soon as they come up, they pop up, you guys get sent right back down to the bottom of the barrel, brotha. So good try and keep trying to catch up.”
Holloway beat top-10 contenders like Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas and Cub Swanson to finally earn his shot at undisputed status, and he sees no need for anyone else to have to go through a murderer’s row to book a meeting with him in the cage. Waiting in the wings for Holloway are Frankie Edgar (who was supposed to fight Holloway on Saturday before withdrawing with an injury), a second meeting with the streaking Swanson, and rising prospects like Doo Ho Choi, Brian Ortega, and Yair Rodriguez.
As long as Holloway can make 145, he’s open to all challengers.
“The only thing that’s going to stop me is medically,” Holloway said. “If I medically can’t make the weight, then I’m not going to force my body to do something that it doesn’t want to. I’ll gladly go up to ‘55. I was talking to Michael Bisping and them on the show, Michael is like, ‘Could we see you as a future champion (at 155 pounds)?’ I was like, ‘Michael — you know he calls me ‘Maxy Baby’ — you’re cutting Maxy Baby short.’ Us Hawaiians, I’m Hawaiian-Samoan, I love to eat, I want to go for four titles: 155, 170, 185, they all can get it.
“I might even be at heavyweight one day, I don’t know. You guys know our eating habits is bad down in Hawaii, so your boy might get big and we might make history.”
Even with those grand plans, Holloway made sure to emphasize that his immediate plans are to simply defend the belt he already has around his waist. However, he doesn’t begrudge those infatuated with the recent trend of “superfights” and he’d be open to them himself when he feels he’s established himself as an all-time great featherweight.
“I understand, I can see it from two ways, people trying to get that money and leave the game early and people trying to set history or whatever. Right now I’m focused on champ life,” Holloway said. “I want to be a champion, I want to be a long-reigning featherweight champion, I want to be known in the history books, my name everywhere as a champion. And then later on in my career when I start getting good, then I can start doing the exhibition matches for money and stuff.
“But right now, I think the world needs to know what a champion looks like and that’s why I’m trying to put my foot down and show the world this is what a champion looks like, defend, I don’t really cry about anything, and if you think you’re the best, come fight ‘Blessed.’”
As it stands, Holloway is pragmatic when the topic of his still-growing legacy comes up. UFC 218 marked title defense No. 1, hardly the stuff of legends even when it’s attached to an 11-fight win streak filled with countless highlights.
Despite the loss to McGregor, Aldo was still at the front of any discussion about the greatest featherweight ever, and Holloway isn’t making more out of their two-fight series than what it now says on his MMA record.
To coin a phrase that Holloway is fond of: It is what it is.
“This is huge, like I said, people ask me what that makes me? That makes me a guy with two wins over Aldo and I got a bunch more to catch up to him,” Holloway said. “He’s the greatest of all time, he’s got what, seven, eight title defenses? I gotta catch up. Numbers don’t lie. Women lie, men lie, numbers don’t lie. I only got one defense, I got a bunch of catching up to do. He’s still the GOAT and I respect him, and I’m coming for that record though.”