While fans and media have been focused on the machinations that led to Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis colliding for the interim UFC featherweight title next weekend at UFC 206, Jose Aldo’s place in the division and the looming shadow of now former champion Conor McGregor, the two men that will share the Octagon on Dec. 10 at the Air Canada Centre remain exclusively focused on each other.
Throughout Tuesday’s UFC 206 media conference call, Holloway and Pettis reiterated that the situation that has arisen over the last seven days to turn their three-round co-main event clash into a five-round headlining battle with the interim featherweight title hanging in the balance is completely out of their hands, and the only thing that matters at the moment is the task at hand.
“I’ve been a champion before, I know how these belts work – you’ve got to be in the right position at the right time,” Pettis said. “We don’t decide who’s fighting for the title. Me and Max agreed to fight five rounds without a title, but they put a title in front of us and that makes it that much better of a fight.”
“The water in this ****ing division was super-murky; now it’s super-clear,” followed Holloway. “The winner of this fight gets to fight for the undisputed title and it’s always good to have extra cash in your pocket too. We’ll see what happens December 10, but it’s a straight shot after that.”
The plan, as outlined at the outset of the call, is for the winner of next weekend’s main event to face Jose Aldo in a title unification bout in 2017.
The Brazilian standout, who collected a unanimous decision win over Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 in July, has said that he would ideally like that fight to take place in the early part of next year, but neither of the men that could end up sharing the cage with Aldo next year have any interest in discussing a possible date for that fight just yet.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Holloway, who had choice words for Aldo throughout the call after having pursued a fight with the long-time champion throughout the year to no avail. “I’ve got a tough task in front of me, I’ve got my hands full with Anthony Pettis December 10 – that’s all I’m focused on and then we can worry about when Jose Aldo wants his shot.”
“Same with me, man,” offered Pettis. “I’m not focused on Jose Aldo, who has the real belt or what. I’ve got my task in front of me and that’s all I’m focused on. Once we get past December 10, we’ll see what comes about.”
These are undeniably turbulent times in the featherweight division and there are myriad big picture questions hanging over the top of the division right now, many of which were brought up during Tuesday’s 30-minute call.
And one-by-one, Pettis and Holloway parried them away, refusing to allow their focus to slip from one another less than two weeks before they meet in Toronto.
“I’ve been telling you guys – I’ve got Pettis in front of me, so I’m not going to be thinking past him, you know?” answered a clearly frustrated Holloway when asked how the 145-pound division moves forward now that McGregor appears to be out of the picture. “People in this sport get talking about, ‘I’ma do this; I’ma do that and blah blah blah’ and then they start stumbling. I’m not trying to stumble.
“I’m only focused on Pettis,” added the talented Hawaiian, who turns 25 on Sunday and carries a nine-fight winning streak into next weekend’s clash with the former lightweight champion. “December 10th, we get the damn thing done and then we can answer all these questions.”
“I’m still trying to fulfill my legacy of being a two-division champion,” Pettis said. “I did it at 155 pounds and I’m working my way to 145 pounds. It definitely happened a lot quicker than I expected, but I’m game; I’m ready.
“I’ve got a tough guy in front of me and I’m not worried about Jose Aldo, Conor McGregor, who’s belt or who has what – all I’m worried about is December 10th.”