It’s a real disservice to the precocious talent of Max Holloway that Conor McGregor still looms over his career.
His last defeat – remarkably now 11 fights ago – was at the hands of the divisive Irish superstar and after the 25-year-old’s latest, most impressive victory to date over Jose Aldo in Rio at UFC 212 to be crowned the undisputed 145lbs champion, the McGregor question soon reared its head.
“That guy was the 2015 champ,” Holloway said of the current 155lbs champ. “He can go running around wherever he’s at with the belt and celebrate, but guess what? You can’t take that away from him here. This is called the year 2017 right now, he’s the 2015 champ, and I’m the champ.”
There’s a certain sense of irony that after the proud Hawaiian’s victory, recency bias saw critics claim Aldo is done after two defeats by stoppage in his last three fights, while on the flipside blemishing Holloway with a defeat some four years ago.
It’s obvious, however, that Holloway is the most improved fighter on the UFC roster and we could be about to embark on a new era of featherweight dominance.
Indeed, the new champ is intent on cleaning out the division and the frightening prospect for his competition is that at 25, he can only continue to improve.
With 11 straight wins, only four fighters have had longer streaks (Anderson Silva 16, Jon Jones 13, Georges St-Pierre 12, and Demetrious Johnson 12) and Holloway is a great fighter who has the potential to become a great.
His intention now, after his third-round TKO win over one of the best featherweights of all time, is to achieve exactly that.
“Demetrious Johnson, he finds his motivation of keep defending, keep defending,” Holloway said in the post-fight press conference.
“It takes a special human being to do that. And that’s me. I want to defend my throne. All my fans know, they love me, I want to defend this, I want to be a champ and keep defending. Come try to take over my village.”
Holloway entered Aldo’s backyard and silenced the bark of a fervent Rio crowd with a performance of maturity and malice.
While his fluid striking has grown to be among the best in MMA, it’s his mentality which impresses most. Holloway has an unshakable belief and it’s married to a fight IQ which allows him to implement his slick skills.
As has often been the case, though, ‘Blessed’ started slow in Rio with Aldo much sharper and quicker.
The challenger is a fighter who flows without thought but in the opening two sessions he appeared to have a lot on his mind.
But as the action picked up in the second, so too did Holloway and he carried his signature high-pace into the third and dropped the 30-year-old with a mirrored four-punch combination.
As the Brazilian turtled up, Holloway swarmed him on the ground and proceeded to beat Aldo out of his shell with nearly every move in the book from back-taking, to elbows and big shots from the mount as stoppage inevitably arrived.
“Slow and steady always wins the race,” he added.
“I was taking my time. I had five rounds. I took my time. I knew he’d fade later on, and I took advantage of the shots that were open.”
For Aldo, a second defeat in 11 years has critics grabbing the pen to write him off but for the first two rounds he was on top.
Aldo’s reign at 145lbs is over but his career is by no means done and the next phase of his career could well involve a move up to the 155lbs division.
Seems like everyone forgot who Jose Aldo really is after his loss to Conor.. Dudes a legend and damn near flawless— Shane Burgos (@HurricaneShaneB) June 4, 2017
Holloway, however, has a home at featherweight and he again called for the UFC to host him in his native country for the defence of his crown with Frankie Edgar a potential opponent.
“If they want to do it, let’s do it in Hawaii,” Holloway said of a potential fight with Edgar. “I know a place, a stadium, it’s very nice.”
He added: “The ‘Blessed’ era is gonna be in full effect here in a bit, you guys are gonna see. I’ve been telling you. I’ve been screaming at the top of my lungs. And now, you guys are starting to listen.”
The noise of McGregor at featherweight is beginning to fade, all the talk now is about Holloway and deservedly so.
Fight promoter Dana White says he has an agreement with mixed martial arts champion Conor McGregor fpr a proposed megafight, but boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather remains unsigned.
White told American television cable channel TNT on Wednesday night that McGregor has agreed to a boxing match and not a martial arts fight which heavily favors Mayweather, who has never lost in his two-decades long storied career.
White said they still have a long way to go. But his plan now is to try to lure Mayweather out retirement for a superfight with McGregor.
“The McGregor side is done,” Ultimate Fighting Champion president White said. “I’m not saying the fight will happen but I got one side done and it’s time to work on the other (Mayweather).
“If we can come to a deal with (Al) Haymon and (Floyd) Mayweather, the fight’s going to happen.”
White said that McGregor has agreed to step in the ring with the undefeated Mayweather despite not having fought competitively in a boxing ring since he was a teenager. McGregor was granted a license to box in California several months ago.
McGregor, a 28-year-old Irishman, has been the UFC’s most popular fighter and among its top money spinners while Mayweather, a 40-year-old American, retired in 2015 with a 49-0 record including 26 victories by knockout.
White has said the fight could generate a payday of $100 million for Mayweather and $75 million for McGregor. Mayweather has repeatedly said that he won’t come out of retirement, against anyone, for less than $100 million.
McGregor then reaffirmed the news in a statement on his website, TheMacLife.com as he stated: “It is an honor to sign this record breaking deal alongside my partners Zuffa LLC, The Ultimate Fighting Championship and Paradigm Sports Management.
“The first, and most important part of this historic contract has now officially been signed off on. Congratulations to all parties involved. We now await Al Haymon and his boxer’s signature in the coming days.”
While the latest development points towards the superfight between two of the biggest stars in combat boxing coming to fruition, there is much work to be done with Mayweather infamous for his meticulous approach to bout agreements.
However, the former five-weight boxing world champion hinted that he wants to get the deal done as he spoke to reporters in England ahead of his protegee Gervonta Davis’s clash with Liam Walsh.
“There’s only one fight that makes business sense,”said the undefeated 49-0 boxer.
“I came out of retirement because I’m a businessman and I want to give the world what they want to see.
“McGregor’s a fighter. I’m a fighter. This is what the fight fans and MMA fans want to see.”
Yesterday marked a year since Jon Jones delivered a distinctly unimpressive – by his standards anyway – performance against Ovince St. Preux.
He hasn’t stepped foot in an Octagon since.
On Saturday, it will be two years since he was stripped of the light-heavyweight title after his role in a hit-and-run accident.
He hasn’t held the belt since.
Both are personal nadirs – one inside the cage, one outside of it – with April proving to be an unfavourable month for the 29-yearold.
Yet, this spring feels like the beginning of a potential rebirth for the sport’s most talented star. Indeed, the former 205lbs champion is close to finalising his return to action with UFC 214 in Anaheim his slated comeback with a one-year USADA imposed ban coming to an end in July.
But Jones has been given the luxury of two choices by UFC preisdent Dana White; either take a tune-up fight or finally rematch Daniel Cormier for the title.
Reports this week have suggested he will opt for the latter but for both himself and fight fans, is it really the best option?
First, from his perspective, the win over OSP exposed the reality of ring rust. For the first time in his career, Jones looked human. He hadn’t fought in 16 months – it will be 15 for his next fight – and it showed.
While he won every round, he was victorious in a fight which was competitive and could have been more so were it not for OSP breaking his arm in the second session.
The fact OSP got flattened by Jimi Manuwa in his next fight, then dropped a decision to the unranked Volkan Oezdemir (who fought on late notice) after that, doesn’t particularly reflect well on Jones’ lacklustre display at UFC 197.
Cormier said it best in the aftermath when he explained: “I’m very disappointed that I didn’t get to compete tonight because I do believe that if he showed up in the form that he did tonight, there’s no way that guy can beat me.”
The question marks surrounding Jones remain and have only intensified after another year on the sidelines. Taking a tune-up fight before stepping back into the cage with Cormier would represent a sensible decision because going in undercooked against the champ could have dire consequences.
It’s not just from a competitive standpoint that stepping away from the bitter rivalry would prove beneficial. The feud with Cormier undoubtedly brings out the worst in both men but in particular Jones.
For a man so desperate to portray the image of a clean-living, God-fearing man, he does his best to completely diminish that during his interactions with Cormier.
With him turning 30 in July, Jones is entering the prime of his career and he simply cannot afford anymore slip ups outside of the cage. Ultimately, this is his last run at making the Greatest of All Time argument a defunct discussion.
In an ideal world for Jones, 2017 would see him get back on track in a tune-up fight, take back the belt before exploring a move up to heavyweight to rubber-stamp his pound-for-pound status. But the ones who gain the most from a break from Cormier/Jones are the fans.
It’s fair to say that everyone is feeling fatigued about the theatrics surrounding the pair. There’s an air of apprehension whenever talk of the rematch comes around purely because UFC 214 would mark the fifth time the fight has been scheduled – yet they’ve only fought once.
Even White recognises that given he also said this week that he cannot trust Jones to headline an event after last year’s UFC 200 fiasco.
Taking this all into consideration, the idea of Cormier defending against a fresh challenger – Manuwa is the leading candidate – while Jones takes a tune-up is the much more appealing route.
After all, this is Jones’ final shot at redemption and next April we could either be talking about him as GOAT or contemplating where it all went wrong.
The UFC’s decision to book the No4 ranked Swanson up against the unranked Artem Lobov was met with widespread derision.
But while the victory did not come as easily as anticipated, Swanson avoided a potential banana skin by getting the job done with an impressive performance to keep title aspirations alive.
He landed an absurd 209 significant strikes on the way to a unanimous decision at UFC Nashville for a new single-fight UFC/WEC featherweight record.
Seeing Sanchez folded on the canvas for the second time in his last three fights provoked an uneasy feeling.
At 35 the damage may already be done and while you can have nothing but respect for his warrior spirit, the devastating nature of Al Iaquinta’s first-round knockout in Nashville made clear that it’s time he hung up his 4oz gloves.
Sanchez has always had a good chin but the fact he’s been KO’d in two of the last three suggests its deteriorating. Ultimately, he’s just not that good anymore and in a division of killers, that’s dangerous.
Congrats @ALIAQUINTA straight right from hell good job! I'm ok💪wanted to congratulate you but they said I had to go get a cat scan— Diego Sanchez UFC (@DiegoSanchezUFC) April 23, 2017
Silva’s final fight outside of the UFC
Saturday marked 11 years since Anderson Silva’s incredibly slick reverse elbow knockout of Tony Fryklund, which was to be his last fight outside of the UFC.
It’s one of the most iconic finishes in MMA history and it’s been played over thousands of times.
Silva was coming off a perplexing disqualification in the Rumble on the Rock 175lbs tournament but he got back to winning ways against Fryklund before making his unbelievable run at middleweight in the UFC.