“If you want to be the best you have to beat the best, and the best is Blessed.”
These words were uttered by UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway before at a press conference back in January. At that same press conference, UFC President Dana White was asked if there was an insurance policy in place in case either Khabib Nurmagomedov or Tony Ferguson had to pull out of their main event fight at UFC 223. Holloway spoke up and said he’d be more than willing to step in and face either of them.
At the time of the presser, no one knew what was to follow. Holloway had to pull out of his scheduled title fight against Frankie Edgar at UFC 222 (which took place on March 3), but now he will step in just over a month later to stick to his word, and replace Tony Ferguson.
On all days, it was announced on April Fools that Ferguson had been injured and the matchup between him and Khabib, which had been scheduled a total of four times, was officially off. While many didn’t believe the news, a video from Dana White not only confirmed the news but also included that it would be Holloway to replace Ferguson on just six days notice.
Many questions came with this announcement. How would Max make it to 155 on just six days notice? Why is he taking this fight when he couldn’t make his own title fight in early March? Is he fully recovered? The questions should be put on hold until we all see how fight week play out, and Holloway had an easy answer to most of these questions.
“This is how legends are made,” Hollway said.
So why stay excited for 223 after feeling the sting of Ferguson being pulled from the main event? We’re in the “Blessed Era” as Holloway likes to say, and it’s time to embrace it. For starters, let’s give due to credit to both Holloway and Khabib for making this last-minute change happen and keeping a great fight as the main event at 223 in Brooklyn, New York.
Secondly, both Khabib and Holloway have a common enemy in Conor McGregor, the current lightweight title holder. Speaking of which, McGregor will be stripped of that title once both Holloway and Khabib make weight and step in the cage at 223, although the Irish superstar could be in the building given that his training partner Artem Lobov will be fighting on the same card.
Somehow, it all ties back to McGregor for both these fighters. On the same night that McGregor defeated Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title, Khabib defeated Michael Johnson and in mid-fight was captured telling Dana White he wanted to fight the “chicken” in reference to McGregor. Holloway’s title path started when he won the interim title at UFC 206, which is when McGregor was stripped of the 145-pound featherweight title. It was at UFC 206 when Holloway defeated Anthony Pettis to become the interim title, then became the official undisputed champion when he defeated Jose Aldo at UFC 212.
Both fighters have traded barbs with McGregor on social media, and both seem poised to be his next opponent, depending on who wins at UFC 223. To give even more reason for excitement, both Holloway and Khabib have openly expressed interest in bringing the UFC to their respective homelands (Holloway is from Hawaii while Khabib is from Russia) and bringing the winner of this fight to their home, would truly be an incredible moment in UFC history.
Khabib is 25-0 while Holloway is on a 12-fight win streak and both are looking to become the biggest champion superstar the UFC has. For Holloway, with a win, he’d be the second fighter in UFC history to hold two titles simultaneously and the first since McGregor did so back in 2016. As for Khabib, a win over Holloway not only gives him his first title, but improves his record to 26-0 and would cement his legacy as one of the most dominant fighters to ever step in the Octagon.
They both are entertaining on the microphone and inside the Octagon, there is a stylistic matchup that makes the die-hard viewers really excited about Holloway vs Khabib, and all that put together is why not only should fans not only keep their excitement for UFC 223 but maybe even increase their excitement for the new main event.
The fourth time wasn’t the charm for Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson, but Max Holloway isn’t your typical replacement option. He said this is how legends are made, and a legend will be born at UFC 223.
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