Max Holloway has won 10 straight fights to capture the UFC interim featherweight title and earn a shot at champion Jose Aldo in a unification bout Saturday in the main event of UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro.
The first of those victories — against Will Chope in January 2014 — set the stage for Holloway’s remarkable run.
“I was backed up in a corner,” Holloway said. “I had two back-to-back losses, and usually when you get your third one, especially to a guy like him, who was a newcomer coming to the UFC, I probably would have (been cut with another loss). Thank you for your service, come again. I wasn’t about that life. I know I’m the greatest, and I’m not here to be average. I always want to stick out as a sore thumb.”
Holloway certainly has made his presence known. The 25-year-old Hawaiian has knocked out five opponents and submitted two others during his winning streak, which includes a stoppage of former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in December to claim the interim belt.
Holloway now has a chance to solidify his place atop the 145-pound division against one of the best featherweight fighters ever.
Aldo hadn’t lost in more than a decade and was the only featherweight champion in UFC history before he was knocked out in 13 seconds by Conor McGregor in December 2015. He bounced back with a spectacular performance in a decision victory over Frankie Edgar in July to win the featherweight title, which had been abandoned when McGregor moved up to lightweight.
Holloway doesn’t think the loss to McGregor took any of the luster off Aldo.
“He’s a legend,” Holloway said. “I watched him since I was 17, and he has stayed on top of the division.
“Now, it’s time for a new era.”
Holloway hopes to usher in that next generation by clearing up the title picture, but his goals extend far beyond Saturday.
“Everybody can get a belt. I don’t care. I want an undisputed career,” he said. “I want the best damn career. I want to be the best guy ever to do this. When I’m done, a long time from now, (I want) people still talking about my name as being the undisputed best fighter in the world, not only of the featherweights.”
Holloway hopes to keep adding chapters to his story, though he’s not ready to congratulate himself for the resume he has built.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of trials and tribulations,” he said. “It’s been a long road, but you can’t step back and smell the flowers just yet. It’s always one foot at a time, and I’m not looking too far back. I’m not looking too far forward.
“When I’m done, I can sit back and smell the roses, but right now it’s grind time. It’s great when I think about it, but I try not to think about it too much. There’s a lot I want to do in this sport and a lot left I can’t do. That’s what I’m focusing on.”
The bout headlines a pay-per-view card that starts at 7 p.m. Four fights from the preliminary card will air on Fox Sports 1 at 5.
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UFC 212 main card
The pay per view begins at 7 p.m. Saturday in Rio de Janeiro.
— Jose Aldo (26-2) vs. Max Holloway (17-3), featherweight title unification bout
— Claudia Gadelha (13-2) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-1), women’s strawweights
— Vitor Belfort (25-13) vs. Nate Marquardt (38-16-3), middleweights
— Paulo Borrachinha (9-0) vs. Oluwale Bamgbose (6-2-0), middleweights
— Erick Silva (19-7, 1 No Contest) vs. Yancy Medeiros (13-4, 1 No Contest), welterweights