Manager: Max Holloway initially wanted UFC 223 fight at welterweight


Before agreeing to a lightweight title fight, Max Holloway wanted to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov on six days’ notice at welterweight, according to his manager.

Brian Butler-Au of SuckerPunch Entertainment said the UFC featherweight champion did not hesitate when offered the Nurmagomedov UFC 223 bout this past weekend following Tony Ferguson’s fight-cancelling knee injury. Butler-Au’s only concern was whether “Blessed” would be able to make the 155-pound weight limit in such little time, but once Holloway’s nutrition team said he could do it, Butler-Au was 100-percent in.

“[Holloway] immediately said to me, ‘Let’s f-cking do it, bro. This is how legends are made.’ That’s exactly what he said to me,” Butler-Au told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s The MMA Hour. “I said, ‘We gotta let George (Lockhart) crunch the numbers.’

“I’m sure he can make the weight; I want him to make it healthily and I don’t want it to have any long-term effects on him. George crunched the numbers; it took about an hour, hour and a half for George to do all that, check everything out. He came back, said he can 100 percent do it, it’s gonna be a grind for him, but if anybody can do it, Max can, and he can do it in a healthy manner. After that, it was on.”

However, Holloway’s initial thought wasn’t challenging for a second UFC title. At first, his team asked if it the fight could take place at 170 pounds, but the promotion wanted a championship to be on the line, per Butler-Au. The only way that could happen is if the bout was at 155 pounds. Holloway and his team eventually agreed.

“We said we would do it at welterweight,” Butler-Au said. “And UFC wanted it to be a title fight. So we reevaluated (the situation).”

Moving up a weight class on less than a week’s notice to face one of the most-feared lightweights in Nurmagomedov is quite the daunting task — and a risk, especially for someone like Holloway, considered to be the best there is at featherweight.

But his manager isn’t surprised Holloway was more than happy to save this Saturday’s pay-per-view card.

“I’m never surprised with Max — and I’m not just saying that,” Butler-Au said. “The kid is seriously one of the most strong-minded people I’ve ever met. I’m not surprised. Not at all.”

Holloway, of course, was supposed to defend his 145-pound title for the second time against Frankie Edgar at UFC 222 last month, but pulled out with an ankle injury. Per Butler-Au, his ankle has healed much faster than the doctors initially expected. The Hawaiian has also gotten back into the gym. In other words, he’s ready to go — his February injury isn’t of concern.

“The treatment that they did on him really took to him as well as they could to anybody,” Butler-Au said. “He has been training, and he has been testing it, he has been pushing it. So far, he’s pushed it pretty hard, and it seems OK.

“This was just one of those things where we had to weigh out the options on whether or not the opportunity was worth the risk, and Max wanted to do it. He’s kind of talked about this moment for a long time — we just didn’t know it would happen on six days’ notice.”

If Holloway, a major underdog, wins on Saturday, he’d be the second fighter in UFC history to hold two belts at the same time. He will be the promotion’s featherweight and lightweight champion.

The first fighter to accomplish that is Conor McGregor. He hasn’t fought in MMA since his lightweight title win over Eddie Alvarez in November 2016. Butler-Au doesn’t expect Holloway to take McGregor’s path should he beat Nurmagomedov this weekend; there’s a good chance, Butler-Au said, Holloway would return to featherweight and fight a few more times there.

“I think he wants to do what the other champion didn’t and make a statement that way,” Butler-Au said. “I do know his time as a 145-pounder was probably going to be on the clock soon, but he had full intentions to defend it two to three more times before he made any moves. My guess from knowing Max is he’s going to want to do something that hasn’t been done.”

UFC 223 takes place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 2 for the strawweight title serves as the event’s co-headliner.



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