It’s only taken twelve consecutive wins, the last two of which were brutal annihilations of a legend, but it seems that UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway has finally regained the attention of his old foe Conor McGregor.
On Sunday, just hours after Holloway dispatched of former longtime featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo for the second time this year, the Hawaiian was the target of a little social media jab from McGregor.
Sharing a picture of a busted-up and bruised Holloway on Instagram, the still-reigning but inactive UFC lightweight champion wrote, “I miss those sunglasses.” The snap was taken after Holloway’s August 2013 loss to McGregor and the Irishman can be seen in the background, wearing a pair of apparently since-misplaced shades.
It was unusual for McGregor, apropos of nothing, to take a pop at Holloway, whose name has rarely emerged from his lips in the four years since that victory unless it was drawn out and toward whom he has displayed little belligerence.
Holloway didn’t waste time firing back at McGregor and, perhaps, landed the more telling blow of the online skirmish.
“Miss the sunglasses? I bet you also miss 2015 brother,” wrote Holloway on Twitter. “Retired fighters love the past.”
On Monday evening, Holloway joined Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour to discuss the busy weekend’s occurrences and his future. McGregor, a key figure in both those timelines, obviously came up.
“When a bully pulls your hair, you punch him in the face. That’s what you do.” Holloway said in describing the little social media back and forth he had with McGregor.
“You know, it’s funny. The guy’s funny. I couldn’t help but laugh. I’m on his mind apparently(via MMAFighting).”
“Actually, I’m kind of surprised because you and I know that guy, every time they talk about his UFC career, one name doesn’t get brought up and it’s Max Holloway,” he added later. “It’s me.”
The exchange, as well as Holloway’s tremendous performance against Aldo, has suddenly sparked new interest in the rematch with McGregor. Before, interim lightweight titlist Tony Ferguson and Stockton savage Nate Diaz seemed to be the only two names connected with McGregor’s immediate MMA future, but Holloway has now entered the discussion. The young champion, however, is nonchalant compared to some of McGregor’s other suitors. He is interested in the fight, but once a long-suffering contender himself, he also feels a sense of duty to the featherweight division.
“I told you guys, I’m a champion and we just brought order back into our division,” Holloway said. “I’m trying to think of our division and the respect of the other fighters.
“It took me ten fights, it took me ten damn fights to get an interim damn title shot and then eleven to get an undisputed shot. It’s my job, it’s my duty to make sure everything runs smoothly. I gotta respect our sport, my division, the other guys that are fighting for it. That’s what I gotta do.”
One might think that Holloway would be desperate to even the score with McGregor, but the affable cupcake connoisseur doesn’t give off that impression at all. This seems to have something to do with the way in which he frames that 2013 defeat.
To him, it means little in the year 2017.
“This guy, he got a win over me when we were kids, at a Fight Night show,” said Holloway. “I think the main event was [Chael] Sonnen and [Mauricio] ‘Shogun’ Rua. I don’t even know if the two of them are even in the UFC anymore.
“Me and him made 12k that night and I think he’s happy holding onto that. That’s the kind of person he is.
“[The UFC] asked me about the Conor fight at [155lbs] when I was sitting down and doing my new contract, like I told you guys, but I heard he was trying to do Paulie Malignaggi in MMA. I hope you guys let that one sink in. I don’t know what else you want me to say.
He holds his head high over that win, I would never [do that]. Look at what I did. I fought what people consider, and what I consider, the greatest of all time, and I gave him his straight damn rematch. I didn’t care.
“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and the best is ‘Blessed’, baby.”
Indeed, much has changed in the interim. Both Holloway and McGregor are very, very different fighters than they were in 2013 and vastly improved, a fact that makes a rematch – now a super-fight – oh-so intriguing.
“Tell him I’ll be waiting,” Holloway added. “If the fight doesn’t happen it’s not on our side, it’s on his. Right now, I’m focused on champ life.”
“For him to actually bring me up is funny, it’s surprising, it’s hilarious and we’ll see what happens. The man’s still retired in my eyes. If he comes back and actually talks about fighting a real MMA fighter, let me know.”