While UFC 206 has been under intense scrutiny, Max Holloway has the chance to realize his full potential with a victory over Anthony Pettis.
There has been much discord over the situation with the UFC featherweight title. But when the cage door closes on Saturday, all those conversations will be irrelevant to Max Holloway, who will look to get the biggest win of his career over former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
While “Blessed” has been accumulating victories for the last several years, his journey into title contention has been very different compared to other young prospects. When he made his UFC debut in 2012, he was the youngest fighter on the roster and received little fanfare. At just 20-years-old, he was dispatched quickly by Dustin Poirier in an outcome that everyone expected.
Holloway was vastly different from several names who had previously held the recognition of being the youngest fighter in the UFC. Jon Jones needed only three fights before he was headlining cards for the promotion. Rory MacDonald burst onto the scene as the protégé of then-welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and quickly began drumming up attention as his seemingly heir-apparent.
Holloway was hardly that, and he showed he had plenty of room to grow even in his upset victory over veteran Leonard Garcia. He would also experience the toughest stretch of his career early on. Holloway would drop his next two fights, the first to Dennis Bermudez and the second in a high profile bout against Conor McGregor.
At the time, McGregor was on his way to becoming the UFC’s next big star and was fighting in front of a rowdy Boston crowd. The inexperienced Holloway, who stepped in for an injured Andy Ogle, was exposed by the more well-rounded Irishman. Adding to the situation, it was revealed after the bout that McGregor had won the decision after tearing his ACL early in the fight.
Since then, Holloway has gone undefeated in nine fights to become one of the best fighters in the featherweight division. Since 2015, Holloway has defeated Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens, and Ricardo Lamas in what has been an impressive run for the 25-year-old.
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There might be outrage over the fact that Holloway hasn’t received a title shot, but the reality is that he competes at 145-pounds at the same time as three of the best fighters of the era. McGregor has gone on to win belts in two weight classes. José Aldo, now the undisputed featherweight champion, is the most dominant fighter in the history of the division. Frankie Edgar, himself a former lightweight champion, has been battling his way to a second title shot as well.
Against three amazing stars, Holloway’s run has simply gone under the radar. In light of the recent situation, however, Holloway stands to get the opportunity he has worked for. With a victory over Anthony Pettis, Holloway would be set-up for a shot against Aldo for the undisputed title. It is assumed, though in no way guaranteed, that the winner of that bout would eventually face McGregor sometime next year.
The run comes at the perfect time for Holloway, easily in the best stretch of his career with his confidence at an all-time high. Pettis, by comparison, is 1-3 in his last four fights. Most recently, Pettis’ debut at 145-pounds saw him struggle with his conditioning against Charles Oliveira. Although only he is only 29, there is question if the wear-and-tear Pettis has on his body has already begun to diminish the dazzling skills that led him to gold in the lightweight division.
Holloway is in the perfect position to upset the more well-known Pettis, setting him up for a high profile fight against one of the best fighters in UFC history. For a fighter whose journey has been spent outside the spotlight, he could soon be front-and-center longer than anyone could have seen coming.