UFC returns to Toronto with focus on featherweights

Holloway (pictured) and Pettis are fighting for the same interim title that Aldo won in July via unanimous decision over Frankie Edgar at UFC 200. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
Gary A. Vasquez/Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO (AP) — The UFC takes another step toward filling Conor McGregor's sizable featherweight shoes when Max Holloway takes on Anthony Pettis in the main event of UFC 206 on Saturday night.

With McGregor now focusing on his lightweight title, Jose Aldo has been upgraded from interim to featherweight champion. But McGregor's successor as the undisputed 145-pound title-holder won't be decided until next year when Aldo faces the winner of Saturday's main event at the Air Canada Centre.

Holloway and Pettis are fighting for the same interim title that Aldo won in July via unanimous decision over Frankie Edgar at UFC 200.

Confused? It's just the UFC's way of restoring order after the championship havoc caused by McGregor ruling two weight classes. The Irish star wanted to defend both titles but the UFC stepped in to avoid a championship logjam that might see fighters in one weight class chaff while McGregor attended to the other division.

“It means that we're getting a definite shot at the official title of 145 pounds. That type of title shot don't come a lot in this sport,” said Pettis, a former lightweight champion in his own right.

“The water at this division was super-murky,” said Holloway. “Now it's super-clear. You know, the winner of this fight gets to fight for the undisputed title. And it's always great to have extra cash in your pocket, too, so it means a lot. So we will see what happens. We'll take care of business (Saturday) and it's a straight shot after that.”

Aldo dethroned Mike Brown in November 2009 to win the WEC featherweight title and, when the UFC introduced lighter weight classes, became the UFC's first 145-pound champion. The Brazilian defended the UFC title seven straight times before McGregor knocked him out in 13 seconds at UFC 194 last December.

The 25-year-old Holloway (16-3), a stylish well-rounded fighter, has won nine straight since losing a decision to McGregor in August 2013.

The 29-year-old Pettis (19-5) made his featherweight debut in August, submitting Charles Oliveira. Pettis moved down a weight class after losing three straight at 155 pounds, a losing streak that started with Rafael Dos Anjos taking his lightweight title via unanimous decision at UFC 185 in March 2015.

When the Toronto card was originally announced, many hoped it would signal a return to action for former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. But that didn't happen and light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier was matched against No. 1 contender Anthony Johnson in a rematch of their UFC 187 fight won by Cormier.

That was scrapped when Cormier was injured in training, moving Holloway-Pettis up.

Former light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans was also removed from the Toronto card after failing to secure a license from the local commission for the second fight in a row. Middleweight Tim Kennedy, his opponent both times, will fight Kevin Gastelum instead Saturday.

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone takes on Matt Brown in the co-main event.

The bouts are the first for Cerrone and Kennedy since stepping forward last week as two of the five high-profile fighters serving as the face of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association.