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Max Holloway takes aim at UFC ‘elevator divas’ who wait to be handed opportunities: ‘Your boy will be at the stairs’

Max Holloway is already the No. 1 contender in the UFC featherweight division. He knows it, the fans know it, and the UFC knows it. There’s no argument to be made otherwise.

So why, then, is Holloway set to fight Yair Rodriguez in the main event of UFC Vegas 42 on Saturday when UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski is unbooked?

For Holloway, the answer is simple.

“I didn’t want to wait until the new year,” Holloway explained Monday on The MMA Hour. “I wanted to keep on fighting. Everywhere, everyone, every time. Let’s get it.

“They told us we didn’t have to [take the fight]. They told us we could wait it out, but I was like, ‘I ain’t about that. We ain’t about that.’ I talked to my team, I let my team know and they were all on board. And we’re here today.”

Holloway, 29, is in a unique spot in regards his place in the featherweight landscape. A former UFC champion, “Blessed” has essentially functioned as an uncrowned king of the division since his controversial split-decision loss to Volkanovski in their July 2020 rematch at UFC 251. Many observers felt Holloway won that fight — 61 percent of the fan scoring on MMADecisions.com scored it for Holloway, as did 18 of the site’s 27 media scorecards — yet Holloway still dropped to 0-2 in the official tally for the series.

Despite that, the calls for Volkanovski vs. Holloway 3 grew even louder after Holloway rewrote the UFC record book in January with his striking masterclass over Calvin Kattar.

But once Volkanovski’s title defense against Brian Ortega was rescheduled for September after initially being slated for March, Holloway was faced with a choice — either sideline himself for the rest of 2021 to wait for Volkanovski and protect what he’d earned, or jump back into the fray and risk his No. 1 contendership in a tough fight against Rodriguez.

For Holloway, it was an easy decision.

“The UFC, they don’t have this tournament structure, so a lot of these guys, they’re just waiting at the elevator. You know? They’re waiting at the elevator to go to the top,” Holloway said. “And I’m not an elevator waiter. There’s no line at the stairs, so that’s where you can find me — at the stairs. This is not new for us. This is not new for us at all. For me and my team, it’s very important to not be elevator divas. I want to just get out there and keep doing the damn thing.

“Everybody else can figure out [who I’m talking about],” Holloway added. “You guys can choose who the elevator divas are in this sport, but you know your boy will be at the stairs and we’ll be running up and down those bad boys.”

It’s a philosophy Holloway has followed throughout his UFC career, and a big reason why Holloway won 10 consecutive fights before ever fighting for the undisputed title. It’s also a big reason why Holloway is one of the most popular fighters in the featherweight division.

Holloway owns a dominant TKO win over Ortega stemming from his time as champion in 2018, and when asked Monday for his thoughts on Volkanovski vs. Ortega, Holloway poked fun at the struggles Volkanovski had defending the UFC title against the jiu-jitsu phenom. Volkanovski was nearly submitted twice by Ortega en route to a decision win at UFC 266.

“I got to see some clips, some highlights, and it went exactly as I thought,” Holloway said. “If it was a striking match, I thought Alex was going to pick him apart. And then whenever they got close, I thought Brian would go in to try to wrap him up, and that’s pretty much what happened. I thought Alex did well, but at the end of the day, I don’t know how it felt to get dropped by Brian or even to get wrapped up by Brian. So, in all actuality, Brian didn’t do that well against me, so I don’t know. I don’t know what it is.”

Holloway laughed and said that he was joking when asked to elaborate on his comments.

Still, as he heads into Saturday’s main event against Rodriguez, Holloway admitted that he’s uncertain if a Volkanovski trilogy match is even his top priority at the moment.

“I’ve got five title defenses and I would like that sixth. But, you know, with possible fights and stuff, there are bigger fights that UFC discussed with us,” Holloway said. “I’ve got a win over the 155 [pound] champ right now [Charles Oliveira]. We’re always on the shortlist for Conor [McGregor]. The last time, before we got injured [in June], we were one of the replacement fighters [to fight McGregor]. And then, I’m the best boxer in the UFC, so use your imagination, my friends. It’s a wild world today.”

Holloway merely played coy when asked to go into further detail about what he meant, but did acknowledge an interest in trying his hand in professional boxing someday. Holloway also noted that aside from Dustin Poirier and Nate Diaz, he knows he’s the biggest star in the UFC’s featherweight and lightweight divisions — with or without a title — so he knows that there are plenty of opportunities that may come his way because of it.

“Anybody at ‘45 or ‘55 after those guys, my name pops up,” Holloway said. “You can go call [UFC executive] Hunter [Campbell] right now, go ask him who can sell, who’s going to sell numbers with Conor, and they’re going to drop my name all the time. So, at the end of the day, I’m always on the shortlist for Conor, so we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens. First things first. I’ve got to fight November 13th and we’ll go from there.”