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Max Holloway confident in championship status should Conor McGregor return to featherweight

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When Conor McGregor made the walk to the ring at the T-Mobile Arena this past Saturday to box Floyd Mayweather Jr., he did so carrying two UFC championship belts.

One, the lightweight title that he won from Eddie Alvarez last November; the other, the featherweight title that he ripped from Jose Aldo’s hands back in December 2015 with an unforgettable 13-second KO.

However, McGregor’s double dip of hardware raised some eyebrows given that he is technically no longer the champion at 145 pounds, according to the UFC who stripped him of the title when he went up a weight class to challenge Alvarez.

Max Holloway, once an interim titleholder, is officially recognized as the undisputed featherweight champion now, having defeated Aldo in a unification bout at UFC 212. The 25-year-old Hawaiian appeared on The MMA Hour on Monday, and he didn’t sound bothered by the fact that McGregor is still claiming to be the king of two divisions.

“I can’t do nothing about it. He was the champ once upon a time. He was the 2015 champ. They forgot to announce the year part,” Holloway said. “It’s a little mixup I think they’ll figure out soon enough that they was the champ, you can’t take that away from ‘em. If Demetrious Johnson, he lost his fight, and he lost his belt, and he wanted to walk out with 10 of his belts that he has, you’re going to tell him he can’t?

“That’s his belts, he earned the damn thing, (McGregor) earned his belt and that’s his belt, but they forgot the clearcut ‘2015’. That belt is just a basic ‘do not defend’ belt, that’s what you’d call it, that’s what he did so I’m not going to take away from him.”

McGregor would go on to lose to Mayweather by TKO in the 10th round, but his gutsy performance was enough to convince some viewers that he may have a future in professional boxing. “The Notorious” also hinted that he could return to the UFC to defend one of his titles, a prospect that could put him at odds with Holloway.

The two men fought back in 2013 with McGregor taking a unanimous decision. Holloway would welcome his return to 145 pounds and he wouldn’t even mind if McGregor insisted on being billed as a featherweight champion.

“No, because that means he’d have to fight my ass,” Holloway said. “If you want an asswhipping at 145, come on down. Everybody can get it. I’m here, I want to fight everyone. Being a champion now, I get to hang out with champions inside the organization, I get to be around other champions that are not even in our sport, and the mindset is different. It’s hard to go out there and protect something that you earned. I worked hard, I got this belt, I earned it.

“And it’s hard to find the motivation to be like, ‘I gotta keep earning this, and keep earning it, and keep earning it.’ It’s super easy to do what Conor does. He earned something then he looks over the fence, he looks for something new, and it’s very easy to be motivated for something new. If somebody told me you can go do boxing, it’s going to be way easier to get out of bed like, ‘Oh yeah, I get to try something new.’”

Holloway believes that one obstacle to a rematch between he and McGregor is that McGregor is afraid to lose a belt. The Irishman’s lone UFC loss came at the hands of Nate Diaz at UFC 196 in a welterweight bout with no title implications (McGregor would avenge the loss at UFC 202.)

If he were to lose a championship match? Holloway thinks that’s a blow that even the supremely confident McGregor wouldn’t able to handle.

“It already showed that he can lose to Nate and he can still hold this championship level mindset to his peers and and to his fans versus if he comes to fight me and he loses, then his fairy tale is done,” Holloway said. “His ‘champ champ’, this whole ‘mystic’ thing is done, that’s over with, and that’s the kind of person that I think he is. I don’t think he wants to risk that, especially against a guy like me.”