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Dana White sees ‘big things’ for Max Holloway at lightweight: ‘Everybody in the top five is a fun fight for him’

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TORONTO — Following his dominant win over previously unbeaten challenger Brian Ortega on Saturday, featherweight king Max Holloway may just be the finest fighter the division has ever seen.

At 27 years old with plenty of time to grow, he could see himself establishing a long-lasting legacy in two weight classes. And UFC president Dana White is encouraging Holloway to double dip.

White spoke to the media after UFC 231 at Scotiabank Arena shortly after the main event that saw Holloway record his second consecutive successful title defense with a fourth-round TKO (doctor stoppage) of Brian Ortega. One major topic of conversation throughout fight week was whether or not Holloway’s previous weight issues would prevent him from continuing at 145, with White recently saying Holloway is simply “too big” to keep fighting at featherweight.

The other reason he’d like to see Holloway move up is because of the compelling challenges that could await him there.

“Max is a grown man and we need to talk,” White said. “But I’d like to see Max go to ‘55 now. I think that the guy’s 27 going on 28 years old, he’s in the prime of his life, never looked better. Continues to improve with every single fight that he’s in and I think he’s done everything he can do at ‘45.

“Why keep cutting that weight? I think there’s some big things for him at ‘55.”

White suggested that he expects to have “a lot of influence” in regards to deciding what weight class Holloway fights at next. Later, when Holloway appeared at the post-fight press conference, he sounded like he was open to whoever at 155 pounds is willing to fight him.

If White can convince Holloway to move up, it would line him up to take on lightweight stars like current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (who Holloway almost met in the Octagon this past April), former interim champion Tony Ferguson, and one-time Holloway foe Conor McGregor.

Perhaps that’s one reason why White isn’t sweating the details of an impending weight class change for Holloway.

“If Holloway goes to ‘55, everybody in the top-five is a fun fight for him,” White said.

Speaking of McGregor, White was asked if he’s worried at all that the featherweight division will struggle should Holloway abandon it permanently, as Holloway was primarily responsible for revitalizing the division when McGregor left it to pursue lightweight gold.

White acknowledged that that could be an issue, but emphasized that he’s primarily looking out for Holloway’s best interests.

“I want what’s right for Max,” Holloway said. “What’s right for Max might not necessarily be what’s right for the division, but we’ll figure that out. I think after his last issues I think it would be better for him physically and every other way to move up to 155 pounds. He has not said one word to me so we’ll see how he feels about that. He and I will talk about it and we’ll go from there.”

With Ortega’s name added to Holloway’s 13-fight win streak, it’s another notch in the Hawaiians already impressive resume. White said, “It’s impossible not to talk about him among the all-time greats.”

White said that he was greatly pleased with Holloway’s efforts and the way he responded after a difficult year that saw Holloway miss out on three championship fights after they were canceled for various reasons. Even if Holloway’s future is at lightweight, White had no concerns about the fighter’s work in the present.

“I think there were a lot of questions coming into this fight,” White said. “Obviously, no questions about how good Max Holloway was, but he had a couple of tough times making the weight. We got him tested medically. We knew he was healthy, we knew he was safe, he went into this cut, seemed great through the whole thing, and obviously came in and performed tonight at another level. He looked unbelievable.

“Those were the questions I think that many people had about him tonight. How would he look after the weight cut? And coming back, the layoff, and all that stuff, and wow.”