Holloway’s ultra-late-notice entry into Saturday’s title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov means that Holloway has a chance to replicate the feat achieved by Conor McGregor in 2015 when McGregor claimed the featherweight and lightweight belts and became the first simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history. It also means that Holloway would literally be holding the two titles McGregor was stripped of — which could lead perfectly into a potential rematch between “Blessed” and “The Notorious.”
And that’s something Holloway’s team is acutely aware of.
“It’s been a funny situation with Max. He’s not somebody that has ever — he’s never gone after Conor like everybody else,” Holloway’s manager, Brian Butler-Au, said Monday on The MMA Hour. “He’s always been very aware of the fact that he’s not going to give that to Conor. He’s going to earn his way and he’s going to make Conor come to him, and that’s the way he’s been playing. That’s why you’ve never seen Max go out there and just blatantly call out Conor.
“Conor will throw out a jab at him and Max will come back with a one-two on social media, and in my opinion, just decimate any verbal sparring that they’ve done, but that’s about the most of it for Max. From there, he’s earning his position, just like he did when he earned the titles. He didn’t leapfrog over anybody to earn the title. He legitimately cleaned out the division. There’s really nobody left for him to fight now, except for Brian Ortega. Even that fight, had Brian not pulled out that amazing win over Frankie, a lot of people would’ve said that he wasn’t ready yet. So, I mean, Max, like I said, he’s done it the methodical way.”
Holloway, 26, accepted the fight against Nurmagomedov just six days before UFC 223 goes down in Brooklyn. The switch was necessitated after the UFC’s interim lightweight champion, Tony Ferguson, suffered a freak knee injury while fulfilling a pre-fight media obligation on the FOX Sports 1 lot.
Holloway has won 12 straight fights since losing a decision to McGregor in August 2013.
Butler-Au said Holloway accepted the offer to challenge Nurmagomedov almost immediately, although he played coy when asked if Holloway received a raise from the UFC for taking such a dangerous risk.
“Everything was taken care of,” Butler-Au said.
The past few days have been a non-stop blitz for Holloway and his team, but Butler-Au added that he believes Holloway will want to do what McGregor didn’t and defend both the featherweight and lightweight titles if he upsets Nurmagomedov. That means Holloway’s risk could end up being the best break of the Hawaiian’s young career — a potential star-making turn of events — but Butler-Au indicated that the entire team is refusing to look ahead at what could happen after UFC 223.
“It just depends on how everything plays out,” Butler-Au said. “Obviously, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that it could be great. Like, very, very, very good. So we’re not really focusing on that right now. Right now we’re just focusing on getting him to Brooklyn safely and getting him into fight week.”