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The lightweight division will have a new champion on Saturday when Khabib Nurmagomedov and Max Holloway square off in the UFC 223 main event.
In between the chants of “KHABIB” from the packed crowd during the UFC 223 Press Conference at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Dana White provided definitive clarity on the lightweight division title picture. Meanwhile, Nurmagomedov paid respect to his opponent for accepting the fight and Holloway continued to implement his signature catch phrase.
“No interim champ,” White said to kick off the press conference. “When this is over one of these guys is champion.”
That means no belt for Tony Ferguson or Conor McGregor. Though White did provide some news on the McGregor front, claiming the former double champ will return to the Octagon this year – “100 percent.”
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Holloway has received praise from the MMA community for replacing Ferguson on six days notice, including kudos from Nurmagomedov. But “The Eagle” admitted Holloway isn’t the only one who had to make a difficult decision.
“For me it’s not easy too,” Nurmagomedov said about accepting a new opponent. “(Holloway is) not smaller than me.”
Holloway, the 145-pound champion, is stepping up 10 pounds. And despite Nurmagomedov’s claims that amid his nine-week training camp Holloway was vacationing, “Blessed” assured fight fans that he’s been training and this was an easy fight to accept.
“Nobody wants to fight him,” Holloway said. “But to be the best you have to beat the best, and the best is blessed.”
History in Brooklyn!@TeamKhabib vs @BlessedMMA LIVE from Brooklyn on PPV! #UFC223 pic.twitter.com/v5bJNSR0xM
— UFC (@ufc) April 4, 2018
For the last five years “Blessed” has been one of the best. He’s on a 12-fight win streak and hasn’t been taken down in four years – a strength that he must continue against Nurmagomedov, who’s one of the most dominant grapplers in the history of the UFC.
Nurmagomedov said Holloway has not fought anyone like him during his 12-game win streak.
“I just fought Edson Barboza, what’s the difference (between Holloway and Barboza)?” Nurmagomedov asked.
“His name is Edson Barboza and not Max Holloway, that’s a big difference,” Holloway answered.