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Max Holloway on social media exchanges with ‘bully’ Conor McGregor: ‘Stand up for your damn self’

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Max Holloway may be working his way back into action after an unfortunate ankle injury sidelined him from UFC 222, but the UFC’s reigning featherweight champion is still delivering knockouts outside of the Octagon in the meantime.

The social media rivalry between Holloway and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor picked up once again earlier this month when the two former opponents traded Twitter barbs in the aftermath of UFC 222. McGregor, who rarely responds directly to fighters on social media, did just that by targeting Holloway after the Hawaiian posted a message of support for Frankie Edgar. Holloway responded with a pair of tweets that included the clever line that he was looking forward to McGregor’s “two strips meal” after the Irishman landed a sponsorship with fast food giant Burger King.

Reflecting back on the exchange Monday on The MMA Hour, Holloway said he has “no idea” why he’s become a frequent target of McGregor’s on social media, but that’s not going to stop him from defending himself from unprovoked attacks.

“The guy keeps jabbing at me and jabbing at me, or whatever, and every time I reply they’re like, ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you replying?’” Holloway told host Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I’m like, ‘Did you guys ever get picked on? You guys like getting picked on? Stand up for your damn self.’ Then the one time I finally — this guy goes and throws a juicy underhand pitch, I take a swing at it and hit it out of the park, and everybody’s all salty. They’re like, ‘Aw, you’re looking for a money [fight].’

“I ain’t looking for a money fight. This guy’s been trying to bully me the whole time. He’s enjoying his retired life, talking about all this kind of wild stuff, and then the one time I attack him, you guys get on me. Get out of here with that stuff. I know what’s on the timetable, and the timetable right now is (Brian) Ortega, so that’s my full focus.”

Holloway, 26, fought McGregor back in 2013, losing a unanimous decision that saw both competitors suffer injuries mid-fight. Since then, he’s racked up an unprecedented 12-fight win streak across the UFC’s featherweight ranks while establishing himself as the unquestioned king of the division with a pair of nasty third-round stoppages over Jose Aldo.

As it stands now, Holloway has his hands full with his ongoing ankle rehabilitation and his looming title defense against undefeated challenger Brian Ortega, who became the first man to knock out Edgar with a spectacular performance at UFC 222. “Blessed” revealed Monday that he is targeting a return to the Octagon in either July at UFC 226 or August at UFC 227. He also reassured any fight fans who may be concerned about him dividing his attention by playing into McGregor’s public tit-for-tat.

“It’s easy to separate the two,” Holloway said. “I’m not going to get into something that’s a ‘what if’ battle with someone, or just waste and focus my energy on something that’s not going to happen. I got a crown. I got a throne to defend. And we’ve got to keep the 145-pound division moving.

“If that guy (McGregor) wants to fight, I would see a contract. That guy tells Dana [White] what he wants to do and Dana usually does it. So if that’s what you want to do, you want to do it, so be it, but I know Ortega’s up next and I’m focused. I’m focused on him 100 percent.”

Holloway added that he doesn’t expect a McGregor rematch to arrive at his doorstep anytime soon, even if he is one of the few consistent social media targets of “The Notorious.”

“A lot of people like talking,” Holloway said.

“Until we see a contract, until we see something actually in motion, then I’ll believe it. But right now, talk is talk, and talk is cheap. So I’m not too worried about it.”