Max Holloway may have saved the UFC’s headliner for the April 7 card, but the journey to the main event won’t be an easy one.
After Tony Ferguson injured his knee and was forced to withdraw from the UFC 223 main event against unbeaten contender Khabib Nurmagomedov, the MMA world was in shock. Thankfully, featherweight champion Max Holloway agreed to step up on six days’ notice to fill in.
But the short notice arrangement presented a big problem – namely with making weight.
According to Holloway’s nutrition and weight-cutting coach George Lockhart, this cut will be tied for the biggest one he’s ever done.
While one would think fighting ten pounds above his normal weight would make things a little easier, Holloway has always cut a lot of weight to make the 145-pound limit. Given he wasn’t training full time due in large part to a recent ankle injury, the journey to 155 pounds will be a hard one.
Lockhart knew the short time frame would make things rough, but after crunching the numbers, he greenlit his fighter to accept the bout with Nurmagomedov.
One reason for this may be the massive opportunity Holloway will be receiving. The bout is reportedly for the undisputed lightweight title. If Holloway wins, he’d become only the fifth man to hold UFC titles in two weight classes and the second man to hold them simultaneously.
Lockhart said: “This is huge for Max and honestly this would be so easy to say, ‘No, man, he can’t do it’ and it would be no stress on me. But the kid, I know he wants it. I know Max wants it. He’s actually excited about this shit. He has so much weight to cut, but he was excited. It was like he had a challenge. He’s just like, ‘Let’s do this’ and I’m like, ‘all right.’”
A low-impact and high-volume training routine seems to be the key for Holloway, as it will help him improve performance without overworking his body. Lockhart and the rest of Holloway’s team have expressed confidence he’ll make the required weight by the deadline on April 6.
As for Ferguson, he’s expressed disappointment at his employer for stripping his title due to injury. There was a big debate about whether titleholder Conor McGregor would be stripped after not defending in over a year, but Ferguson’s interim title was stripped shortly after his injury was announced.
Ferguson compared his situation to that of Robert Whittaker. Whittaker won the interim middleweight title in a fight against Yoel Romero and was even allowed to keep it after Georges St.-Pierre defeated Michael Bisping for the real title. After GSP was forced to relinquish his title due to illness, Whittaker was upgraded to undisputed champion.
No matter who wins between Holloway and Nurmagomedov, there are plenty of contenders waiting afterwards. With McGregor itching to get back in the mix and Ferguson gunning to regain a title he never lost, the UFC’s 155-pound division will likely be an active one for the remainder of 2018.