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Max Holloway: At 155, Khabib Nurmagomedov fight ‘might excite me the most’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Dana White wants Max Holloway to move up to lightweight. In that division, there are no shortage of potentially amazing matchups.

There’s Conor McGregor, the last man to beat Holloway back in 2013. There’s Tony Ferguson, whose frenetic style would pair dazzlingly well with the Hawaiian. And then there’s lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, whom Holloway was supposed to face at UFC 223 back in April.

That latter scenario might be the one that intrigues Holloway the most, he said at the UFC 231 post-fight press conference Saturday night in Toronto after defending his featherweight belt against Brian Ortega.

“Khabib is another undefeated fighter,” Holloway said. “I got this niche, I guess. I just gave an undefeated fighter his first loss. So maybe that one might excite me the most. We were supposed to have that one. So we’ll see what happens. I don’t know. I ain’t picky. Feed me. They all can get it.”

Holloway (20-3), who has won 13 in a row, finished Ortega in incredibly impressive fashion. He poured it on Ortega in the fourth round and the doctor would not allow the Los Angeles product to come out for the fifth. On the judges’ cards, Holloway won every round. One judge had him winning one of them with a dominant, 10-8.

The victory was even more impressive considering the circumstances. Holloway, 27, had not fought in a year, since a fourth-round TKO win over Jose Aldo at UFC 218 in December 2017. The last 12 months have been marred by injuries, failed weight cuts and concussion-like symptoms that forced him out of a scheduled fight with Ortega at UFC 226 in July.

Now, with very little left to do at 145, the UFC seems to have Holloway moving up in its sights.

“Dana White is the boss,” Holloway said. “The boss is looking for superfights. All the UFC guys, you guys — you guys be talking about me fighting at 55 for super fights. I keep hearing the name Conor, Khabib.

“Everybody talks about the top three guys. Everybody talks about Tony. Everybody wants to see me and Conor, because we fought when I was a kid. A long time ago. Dennis beat that Max, too — Dennis Bermudez beat that Max a couple years ago. So, the top 20 featherweights in the world — 30 — would beat that Max. It is what it is.”

Ferguson, meanwhile, tweeted that he wouldn’t mind fighting Holloway if a title fight with Nurmagomedov falls through for him. Holloway said he didn’t decline, especially after someone this week in Toronto mistook him for Ferguson.

“We’ll see what happens,” Holloway said. “That’s a fun fight. You guys watched Embedded, somebody called me Tony. We’ve got a bone to pick.”

The name on the other side of the marquee doesn’t seem to matter to Holloway. At lightweight, “Blessed” has a full plate in front of him. And that’s just how he likes it.

“As a competitor, I have three losses,” Holloway said. “So I want to get them all three back, but that’s just me. I want to fight everyone, whoever. As a competitor, I’ll fight whoever. If you tell me some guy is the best, let’s do it. Is this the best guy? I’m gonna fight you then. Put your dukes up, let’s trade blows.”