Max Holloway’s approach to each fight has always been a combination of living in the moment and looking to establish his legacy.
Ask him about pushing his featherweight winning streak to 14 this weekend in Edmonton at UFC 240 and he’ll tell you that it doesn’t matter — that every time he steps into the Octagon, he does so with an 0-0 record, looking to deliver the kind of performance that forces everyone to sit up and take notice of the once scrawny kid from Waianae who has grown into one of the most talented strikers in the sport.
At the same time, if you ask him specifically what it would mean to best Frankie Edgar, the man he’ll finally face on Saturday evening at Rogers Place, and he’ll sing the opponent’s praises, heralding him as a future Hall of Famer while acknowledging that if you want to leave a legacy behind once your career is over, these are the fights that matter most.
“For the legacy that I’m trying to build, a win over Frankie would be huge,” said Holloway, just a couple days out for putting his featherweight title on the line for the third time. “It’d be another champion.
“If you look at my record, my last four championship fights at 145 pounds were all finishes and I hope to keep that streak alive too and build my name into one of the greatest ever — ever; not greatest featherweight champion or greatest featherweight — the greatest ever.
“Now with the new belts, you get Soul Stones (for each successful title defense),” joked Holloway, referencing one of the gems at the center of The Avengers Infinity War saga, “and I need his Soul Stone.”
If the 27-year-old Hawaiian champion seems extra amped up this week, it’s because this fight with Edgar has been a long time coming and offers him a chance to once again remind people of his dominance.
The duo were first scheduled to square off at UFC 218 in what would have been Holloway’s first title defense after unifying the belts in a “Champion vs. Champion” clash against Jose Aldo in Rio de Janeiro. But a month prior to the bout, Edgar was forced out with an injury, leading to Holloway running it back with Aldo and replicating his effort from their first fight, right down to the third-round finish.
The bout was then rescheduled for UFC 222 in March 2018, but this time it was “Blessed” who was bitten by the injury bug and forced to withdraw. Edgar stayed on the card and faced Brian Ortega instead, losing to the unbeaten rising star, who took his place atop the list of contenders in the 145-pound weight class in the process.
Having to pull out of that March engagement was the first of a series of issues that Holloway was force to contend with in 2018, which culminated in him returning to action at the end of the year in a bout against Ortega that many forecasted the challenger would win. Instead, Holloway ran away with it, drowning Ortega with his volume and pace, reminding everyone who sits on the throne atop the featherweight division.
This weekend in Edmonton, Holloway is once again in a spot where some people could be questioning how secure his grasp on the title is after he ventured up to lightweight in April and had his lengthy winning streak snapped by Dustin Poirier.
“It’s not the same as last year because last year we went through different difficulties,” said Holloway of the similar feeling between his bout with Ortega and Saturday’s main event showdown with Edgar. “But in April, we said, ‘We’ll take this fight, but you’ve got to let me come back in the summer and defend my belt at ’45, no matter what the outcome is,’ and we’re here now and I’m excited.
“We live in a sport that is all about short-term memory, where you’re only as good as your last fight,” he added. “I think this fight is going to be a good way to re-introduce myself and let everybody know that I’m still the king; that I’m still on the throne.”
One element of this fight that has been a low-key talking point since the fight was announced has been Holloway’s weight, as the five-foot-11 pressure fighter is moving back down to the 145-pound ranks just three months after competing in the lightweight division.
Though he’s never missed weight in his career, it’s no secret that getting down to the championship limit is a challenge that only continues to get more difficult for Holloway as he gets older, but just a few days ahead of stepping on the scales, the featherweight titleholder isn’t worried.
“The weight cut is the weight cut,” said Holloway, offering a topic-specific variant on his trademark “It is what it is” response. “I feel great. I feel strong. I’m the 145-pound king and I wanted to come back to this division.
“I’ve got the best team around me — the best coaches, the best medical staff, the best everything — and everything is coming the way it’s supposed to be looking, so I’m excited.”
And he’s chomping at the bit to finally share the cage with Edgar.
“The dude’s a legend,” Holloway said of the former lightweight champion, who has come up short in his two previous bids to claim featherweight gold. “He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame for sure and I just can’t wait to fight him.
“These are the guys that you want to fight in order to build a legacy. I can’t wait to fight him.”