Max Holloway may have cleared up the UFC featherweight title picture, but there is still a bombastic Irish shadow looming over the division.
Holloway unified the belt with a spectacular knockout of Jose Aldo on Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 212.
He insisted he is free from the burden of former champ Conor McGregor even though McGregor owns a win over him and was stripped of the belt without defending it following a 13-second knockout of Aldo in 2015.
“Like I said before, I’m going to say it again. That guy was a 2015 champ,” Holloway said after the victory. “He can go run around wherever he’s at with the belt and celebrate it because guess what, you can’t take it away from him.
“But this is called the year 2017 right now. He’s the 2015 champ and now I’m the champ. If he wants come back down, he can come and get it. But if not, it is what it is, you know.”
McGregor moved up to 155 pounds and captured the title and has even competed at 170 pounds since winning the belt at 145. He’s negotiating a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and has given no indication he ever plans to return to featherweight in MMA.
“He’s a different guy,” Holloway said of McGregor. “He’s a guy who is always looking over the fence, he’s always trying to look for the next great thing. He never really showed that he was a champion, you know, like (Demetrious Johnson).”
Holloway cited Johnson’s lengthy run with the flyweight belt as the kind of title reign he hopes to emulate.
“It takes a special human being to do that, and that’s me,” Holloway said. “I want to defend my throne. Come try to take my village. Off with your head, that’s what I’m going to do.
“I’m not going to chase someone around, I’m not going to talk about someone who is not talking about me. He gets to choose his fights. Why am I going to cry and beg him to fight me? Get the hell out of here with that (expletive). You can beg to fight me now, dog.”
While Holloway insists his preference is to stay in the division and defend the belt instead of chasing money fights, he is ready to get paid.
He has been very vocal about his checks and hopes now is the time to start cashing in on the success of 11 straight wins since a decision loss to McGregor in 2013. Holloway says he met with UFC president Dana White before the win over Aldo to discuss ways to increase his earning potential.
“He said this is big-game hunting,” Holloway said White told him. “The bigger the game you bring to the table, the bigger the paycheck you get. I think Aldo is a silverback gorilla. I want my paycheck. I don’t want money fights, I want to get paid, and like I said, I want to defend my throne. I’m going to be here for a long time.”
His first defense could very well be against former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar later this year.
There is still no deal in place for the proposed megafight between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr., but McGregor’s training for what would be his first professional boxing match are underway.
John Kavanagh, McGregor’s coach, told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto it would be a “big mistake” to wait until the fight was officially booked to begin preparing for the lofty challenge.
“We are training now,” he said. “We’re ready for that date in the fall, whenever that might be. We’ll let the lawyers and suits deal with the nuances of who gets this and who gets that. Conor is a fighter. I am his coach. We’ll focus on the contest at hand.”
Kavanagh said the fight started to feel real to him when McGregor agreed to his side of the deal with the UFC. White is negotiating with the Mayweather side, but Kavanagh said he’s “absolutely” confident the fight will happen.
Johnson appeal denied
The New York State Athletic Commission has denied Anthony Johnson’s request for a hearing to appeal his UFC 210 loss based on light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier’s actions during weigh-ins for the April 8 bout.
Johnson was seeking a percentage of Cormier’s purse and for Cormier to be stripped of the title after Cormier appeared to shift his weight by placing his hands on a towel that had been stretched out in front of him.
Cormier has denied any wrongdoing. He hit the target weight of 205 pounds just moments after he had tipped the scales at 206.2.
“Mr. Johnson did not protest the weigh-in result or Mr. Cormier’s alleged actions at any time within the 36-hour period between the weigh-in and the conclusion of the title bout,” NYSAC interim executive director Anthony Giardina wrote in a letter responding to Johnson’s request.
Giardina also wrote there was “no conclusive evidence” Cormier weighed more than 205 pounds.
Johnson announced his retirement after the bout, but indicated on Twitter last week he was having second thoughts.
Contact Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.
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