Hundreds of screaming fans packed the arrival gate of United flight 253 on Monday at Honolulu International Airport to welcome back Hawaiian hero Max Holloway upon his return from the Brazilian battlefield in Rio de Janeiro.
Holloway, the new undisputed featherweight champion, collected his gold belt from longtime division monarch Jose Aldo on his home turf to officially begin the self-proclaimed “Blessed Era.”
The victory was a complete one. Holloway left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he now reigns as ruler of the 145-pound weight class.
He took Aldo’s best shots, blistering-fast punches and even a knee to the head that looked to stun the 25-year-old in the first round of their UFC 212 main event. After 10 minutes during which Aldo seemed to be inching closer to another signature victory, the momentum shifted toward the end of the second round.
In the third, Holloway was flawless. It would take a near-perfect effort to dethrone a king the likes of Aldo, and the Pride of Hawaii responded. He dropped Aldo with a pair of 1-2 combos.
The onslaught of punches that followed signaled the changing of the guard.
Holloway spoke all week about how his time had come and Aldo’s time had passed. Each fist that crashed down onto the face of the fallen King of Rio reiterated Holloway’s assertion.
Now Holloway stands alone at the top, riding the fourth-longest win streak (11) in UFC history. Only Anderson Silva (16), Jon Jones (13), Georges St-Pierre (12) and Demetrious Johnson (12) have recorded more consecutive wins.
The discussion now shifts from Holloway’s epic win to the always intriguing, “what’s next”? Longtime featherweight standout Frankie Edgar may not have been cheering for Holloway to win but he knew a future title shot depended on an Aldo loss. Edgar has lost twice to the Brazilian and a third crack at him didn’t seem likely.
But for Holloway, who has beaten the who’s who of the division on his way to the title, Edgar remains one of the few that he has yet to face. But the Hawaiian isn’t about to start picking his opponents. He’s ready for all comers and hoping to fight in his hometown of Honolulu as soon as possible.
“I’m not here racing through my division. I want to be Mister Clean Out – I’m here cleaning them out,” he said. “If I didn’t fight you, get ready. And if I fought you already, you know what’s going to happen the second time around.”
Aldo may be down after losing the belt he used to define his legacy, but he’s far from out. He took to social media to say thank you to fans and teammates that have helped him in his best times and vowed to fight back from the bad times once again.
“I’ll come back, because we go down so we can get back up!!” Aldo wrote on Instagram. “That’s it!! We’ll be back!!”
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC