Max Holloway nonetheless believes he is a greater combined martial artist than Alexander Volkanovski.
That is a fairly easy, easy assertion, nevertheless it solutions the possibly troublesome query dealing with Holloway. He’s solely 31 years previous and undoubtedly one of many high featherweights on the earth. However he is additionally 0-3 in UFC title fights to the present champion, Volkanovski, and has absorbed over 2,000 strikes in his profession.
It isn’t an unfair query for Holloway proper now: What’s he nonetheless attempting to perform? And relying on no matter that reply is — ought to he even nonetheless be preventing?
“I do consider I am a greater fighter than Alex Volkanovski,” Holloway instructed ESPN. “If I did not consider I used to be a greater fighter than him, then why am I preventing in the identical weight class because the man? When you begin to settle for, ‘This man is likely to be higher than me,’ you do not belong and you must retire. Guys do not perceive that. Lots of people are OK with simply being OK.
“If I did not suppose I might nonetheless win, what the hell am I doing? I’d have gone to a different weight class. I’d have retired — however I do know I am there.”
It is the one mindset one would need from Holloway (23-7), who returns from a nine-month layoff to face Arnold Allen (19-1) in the principle occasion of UFC Combat Night time on Saturday in Kansas Metropolis, Missouri. However in fact, the precise mindset is barely price a lot in a sport that locations your long-term well being on the road. And albeit, there is a respectable quantity of concern following Holloway into this subsequent battle.
Holloway fought Volkanovski 3 times from 2019 to 2022, with all three fights going to a call. In all, he solely received three of these 15 rounds on the judges’ scorecards — and maybe extra notably, he misplaced every of the ultimate eight rounds. Their trilogy bout in July cannot be described as aggressive, as Volkanovski dominated all 5 rounds and even taunted Holloway alongside the best way.
Dropping three fights to arguably the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter on the earth is just not trigger for alarm, however there are further components to think about. For one, it is exhausting to ascertain the UFC ever reserving a fourth between them, particularly after the best way the final one went. This implies so long as Volkanovski is the champ, Holloway’s path to a title is closed off.
Holloway, nonetheless, does not consider that is the case — and thinks the UFC would not have even booked him in opposition to Allen, who’s ranked No. 4 within the division, if it had already determined that.
“By no means say by no means,” Holloway mentioned. “Lots of people are like, ‘It is exhausting to get a fourth with him and this and that.’ I am like, ‘You’ll be able to inform me no matter, however I am not even presupposed to be right here, ? I am not presupposed to be standing in entrance of you. I used to be by no means presupposed to be the UFC champ at any level.
“Individuals all the time say, ‘That man is rarely going to battle that man,’ after which growth. One battle occurs. You say just a few phrases. One thing adjustments. MMA is a really catch-fire sport. Should you can simply ignite it, you can begin a wildfire, ? The primary factor with me is I’ve acquired to do what I can management.”
Setting apart how seemingly or unlikely a fourth Volkanovski battle is likely to be, there are additionally enterprise ramifications to Holloway’s scenario. Commonplace UFC contracts compensate champions a lot larger than non-champions, which is usually a robust capsule to swallow for standard athletes who grew accustomed to sure figures.
Holloway, who competed as a champion on six consecutive UFC pay-per-events from 2017 to 2019, gave his reassurance he and UFC chief enterprise officer Hunter Campbell ironed that out.
“It was exhausting, , however I’ve acquired nothing however love for my man, Hunter,” Holloway mentioned. “They know the way a lot of a enterprise man I’m, they usually know they’ll belief us. So, enterprise is booming, it’s what it’s, and yeah, I do not acquired the belt, however I am a type of guys they’ll put their belief in me on cable TV occasions or pay-per-view. Enterprise is sweet after I get to go on the market and battle.”
On the one hand, anybody can have a look at Holloway’s circumstances and say that every part is okay. Since 2019, he has solely misplaced to 2 totally different opponents: Volkanovski and Dustin Poirier, nonetheless the No. 2-ranked light-weight within the UFC. He’s simply over two years faraway from one of many higher performances in UFC historical past, a five-round win over Calvin Kattar on an ABC community card in 2021.
However however, it is easy to see how his again is in opposition to the wall. Sure, he is solely 31, however that features 11 very lively years within the UFC. He not solely misplaced 3 times to Volkanovski, however he appeared to regularly lose an increasing number of aggressive floor to the Aussie as their rivalry progressed. Quite a bit should go proper for him to carry a championship once more.
It is price placing it on the market — Holloway is not flawed a couple of potential fourth battle. This is a sport wherein you by no means need to say by no means. Stranger issues have occurred in MMA, than a gifted fan favourite like Holloway getting an unlikely fourth crack at a dominant champion. It is exhausting to see it proper now, however issues can change rapidly on this sport.
That solely actually occurs, nonetheless, with iconic performances. Since Holloway misplaced to Volkanovski for the third time final July, he is been just about silent. On Saturday, he’ll should be very loud as soon as once more.
“I must remind all people that we nonetheless right here,” Holloway mentioned. “And we will be right here for some time.”
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