Due to the fact that Conor McGregor has so much unfinished business at lightweight to tend to, a trilogy to complete with Nate Diaz, a host of lucrative options in the boxing world to consider, and numerous distractions outside the octagon that seem to be holding up his fighting career, a future rematch between he and UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway just doesn’t seem all that realistic right now.
Yet, it’s becoming a more and more mouth-watering prospect every time that Holloway steps into the octagon and, somewhat inevitably, back out again in a celebratory posture.
Last night at UFC 218 in Detroit, a mature, poised, ultra-confident Holloway patiently picked away at Jose Aldo, waited for the right moment to pounce and then violently accelerated the pace, eventually ravaging the Brazilian legend with a savage, sustained attack late in the third round. It was Holloway’s 12th consecutive win since he was overwhelmed by an Irish whirlwind in August of 2013, losing a three-round unanimous decision to McGregor at a UFC Fight Night event in Boston, and it was perhaps his most impressive victory to date.
Holloway has many of the tools required to really trouble McGregor and he has improved at a frightening rate since his last defeat. He had the height, length, reach, and gas tank in that first fight, and his chin displayed the requisite metallic properties to withstand McGregor’s power. All of these attributes are key, but they weren’t enough alone to slow McGregor’s early momentum. Holloway, however, is now a much more rounded, intelligent, tactically astute, composed fighter, capable of making the most of those physical advantages.
Of course, McGregor is a very different fighter too. Back in the late summer of 2013, the Irishman still utilized a lot more capoeira type kicks. He was a more chaotic, high-energy offensive force. However, the knee injuries he suffered in the Holloway fight and later, as well as the tough lessons learned about movement-efficiency in his loss to Nate Diaz, transformed McGregor into a different fighter, whose arsenal is now a little less flashy and flamboyant, but more practical and just as devastating.
It would then, be a very different, and very interesting fight today.
At the UFC 218 post-fight press conference on Saturday, a smartly-dressed Holloway was predictably quizzed about a potential rematch with lightweight champ McGregor.
“Like I said, I’m the champion of my division and I’ve got to keep everything rolling,” said Holloway. “I’ve got to keep everything going. I’ve got a throne to defend. I’m not going on hiatus. As long as I get contenders, I’m going to fight.”
“But if UFC call me out for that reason, any reason for fighting him, I’ll gladly fight him. If the Conor fight don’t happen, it’s not on my side, I’ll tell you guys right now. It’s not on my side. It’s on their team.”
“Their team is talking about me all the time, they’re talking about how I’m the best guy in the world blah, blah, blah, this and that,” added Holloway, before taking a little dig at McGregor. “Conor… Right now, Conor – really think about this – right now Conor is talking about fighting Paulie Malignaggi in MMA. Just let that sink in, you know. Paulie Malignaggi in MMA. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say after that.”
McGregor’s team has been highly complimentary of Holloway in the past. The Irishman’s head coach John Kavanagh in particular, has frequently lauded Holloway. Even when McGregor was featherweight champion, Kavanagh claimed that Holloway was the second best fighter in the division behind his charge. Interestingly though, Kavanagh did pick Aldo to beat Holloway on Saturday night.
McGregor has spoken about the possibility of bringing former sparring partner turned bitter verbal sparring partner Paulie Malignaggi over to MMA on a couple of occasions recently, but the fight doesn’t seem like a real possibility, as the supposedly retired Italian-American boxer has ruled out making the jump across combat codes. Malignaggi does want McGregor, but only in a boxing ring and under boxing rules. A fight between McGregor and interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson looks a far more likely scenario.
When he was asked at the UFC 218 post-fight presser if a McGregor vs. Holloway sequel is possible, UFC president Dana White once again suggested that the SBG Ireland’s fighting future itself is still very much up in the air.
“Again, like I said last week to everybody who was at my office, who knows if Conor is even going to fight again? So, I’m rolling like he’s not,” said White. “So, yeah, if Conor comes back and defends the title and, you know, anything is possible.”
For now, Holloway is looking towards likely bouts with top contenders Frankie Edgar, against whom the Hawaiian was originally supposed to fight at UFC 218, and Cub Swanson.