Following his win over Jose Aldo on Saturday night in Rio, new UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway was bombarded with questions about what’s next. Some in the media tempted the Hawaiian to issue a call-out to former foe and current UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor. While others on social media played matchmaker, suggesting bouts with lightweights Tony Ferguson and Nate Diaz.
Thankfully for the sake of the tumultuous featherweight division, Holloway claimed that he was more interested in defending his title than venturing up for a super-fight with McGregor, whom he did invite back down to 145lbs, or taking on admittedly intriguing bouts with Ferguson or Diaz.
With McGregor looking unlikely to return to the featherweight division, there are only two opponents that really make sense for Holloway’s inaugural defence. Cub Swanson, who is ranked fourth in the UFC’s official featherweight rankings, is on a four-fight winning-streak since losing to Holloway via submission in April of 2015. While Frankie Edgar, ranked number two, has won seven of his last eight contests, with his only loss during that stretch coming via decision to Aldo back at UFC 200 in July of last year. The former lightweight champion is also coming off of dominant and extremely impressive stoppage victory over Yair Rodriguez, a man who had looked like a champion in the making before he met ‘The Answer’ last month.
Had Aldo beaten Holloway on Saturday night, Swanson would have been a shoo-in for the title shot, as Edgar has lost to the Aldo twice in recent years and a trilogy-completing bout would appear stale. Yes, Swanson has lost to the Brazilian as well, in an incredible eight seconds back in 2009, but that is a distant memory and Aldo vs Swanson 2 certainly has a fresher feel than Aldo vs Edgar 3.
With Holloway’s win, however, Edgar looks a more attractive option for UFC matchmakers. He is the bigger name, has never fought Max and poses an interesting style match-up for the 25-year-old champion, while Swanson is just a couple of years removed from a convincing loss to Holloway.
During an appearance on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, Edgar acknowledged that a Holloway win had done him some favours, but the experienced 35-year-old also claimed that he has done more to earn a shot than Swanson anyway.
“I don’t see how he’s in consideration” Edgar said of Swanson. “Since me and Cub fought, I’ve fought nothing but top-10, top-five guys. I don’t think he’s fought anyone in the top 10 and he’s also lost a match since then. So I don’t think how that’s even, you can’t even compare the two.”
“I knew that [a Holloway win] was the best case for me. I just wasn’t going to sit there and shout it out and try to cheer for anybody, I just figured I won’t say much about it, I’ll let those guys figure it out, and the cards fell my in my favor. So, here we go, let’s set up Holloway-Edgar(Transcription via MMAFighting).”
Edgar beat Swanson via a ridiculously late fifth round submission in November of 2014, five months before Swanson tapped to Holloway. It was Edgar’s third win in a row, as he had already beaten Charles Oliveira and B.J. Penn since his first loss to Aldo in 2013. The New Jersey native went on to secure further wins over Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, Jeremy Stephens and the aforementioned Yair Rodriguez.
Swanson on the other hand, has beaten much less formidable opposition during his recent winning-run, topping Hacran Dias, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Doo Ho Choi and Artem Lobov.
It’s hard to argue with Edgar’s reasoning.
If he is to be granted a title shot, there is a chance that Edgar will have to travel into hostile territory, as Holloway has been fervently campaigning for a fight in his native Hawaii.
But that isn’t a deterrent to the teak-tough veteran.
“For a title shot, I’d fight on the moon” Edgar said. “Hawaii would be cool, man. My team would like that, I know that. MSG would be good, too. I’m sure Max would be into that, too. C’mon, World’s Most Famous Arena? I think that makes sense, too. Then again, if they can get Hawaii done I’m 100 percent down. Holloway’s been talking and saying Aldo, you gotta go to the other king’s land, and conquer him on his own land, I’m just trying to follow suit, homie.”