While many called him the greatest 145-pound fighter of all time, Holloway never bought into the hype or accolades surrounding his title reign and instead he just focused on the next contender standing in line to face him.
He carried that same attitude out of his loss to Volkanovski as Holloway planned to face whoever the UFC put in front of him next but ultimately the promotion decided to do an immediate rematch now scheduled for July 11 on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi.
It turns out Holloway didn’t even need to request the fight because he says it was Volkanovski who requested another showdown with him as the Australian seeks to cement his championship status.
“I didn’t ask for the rematch,” Holloway revealed when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I didn’t need to. He asked for it.”
Automatic rematches for former champions can be tricky territory because a second consecutive loss means the chances of getting a third opportunity against the same fighter is virtually impossible.
In recent history only Stipe Miocic has found success in an immediate rematch after he avenged a prior defeat to Daniel Cormier with a fourth-round TKO to reclaim the heavyweight title this past August. Prior that, a number of former champions fell short in their bids to win back the gold.
Frankie Edgar beat B.J. Penn to become champion and then solidified his status as the best 155-pound fighter in the world with another win over the UFC Hall of Famer. Edgar then suffered the same fate after he lost his title to Benson Henderson and then came up short in a razor-close decision in the rematch.
As the longest reigning middleweight champion in company history, Anderson Silva definitely deserved another shot at Chris Weidman after falling to him in their first meeting. Sadly, the rematch ended in devastating fashion after Silva broke his leg in the second round during a striking exchange.
Holloway was actually responsible for handing Aldo back-to-back losses after they met on two consecutive occasions as well.
Despite those odds seemingly stacked against him, the 28-year-old Hawaiian isn’t thinking much about what this rematch means or the chances that a win would likely set up a third showdown with Volkanovski in the future.
“No pressure,” Holloway said. “I’m 0-0 every fight. You know this, my man.
“The next fight is always the most important one. That’s how it works with the UFC - if you’re actually asking for the toughest fights. They give it to you if that’s what you want, and you know me. You know what I always ask for.”
While he’s downplaying the significance of the immediate rematch, Holloway knows how much is on the line when he sets foot in the octagon this Saturday night at UFC 251.
On top of all that, he had to deal with a less than ideal training camp due to the COVID-19 outbreak that swept the globe and forced Hawaiians to make a lot of shared sacrifices to slow down the spread of the deadly disease.
In fact, Holloway did the majority of his work at home while speaking to his coaches over Zoom and without any sparring partners to push him for rounds at a time. He did stay healthy, which is a change of pace from the usual rigors of an intense training camp and Holloway is the last person in the world to make excuses, especially considering what other people were facing thanks to the coronavirus.
Instead of complaining, Holloway put his extra energy towards those who needed it most.
“It’s going to be a long road for Hawaii,” Holloway said. “Unemployment is one of the highest in the U.S. because we rely so much on tourism. When things got bad we got hit up by dozens of charities. Most important is people need to eat, so we’re working with the Hawaii FoodBank. We’ve done some things already and we have several more in the works. I hope to announce a couple more big campaigns next week.
“I got to spend more time with [my family]. I got to reset. But yeah Hawaii is having a hard time. For my team, we’ve prioritized charitable work so we have a lot of stuff in the pipeline now. It’s always on our list but now it’s half our list. It’s just a different world and we have a responsibility to Hawaii.”
While COVID-19 spikes have started popping up again all over the United States, Holloway is ready to put his full attention back on fighting starting with his title bout this weekend.
If all goes well, Holloway will return home with a title to lift the spirits of his friends and family at home and then he hopes to make the featherweight division a little more active again.
“I’m always trying to keep a high pace,” Holloway said. “I fought my last four title fights in 12 months. If I won at [UFC] 245 I probably would’ve tried to fight on the March card to be honest.
“So it is what it is. When I can dictate the pace for the division, things move faster.”