Current Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight king Max Holloway agreed to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov at lightweight on just six days’ notice after the Dagestani’s previous scheduled opponent, Tony Ferguson, had to withdraw after suffering a freak injury on set during a promotional event for UFC 223.
The 26-year-old Hawaiian was only returning from his own injury which forced him out of his featherweight title defense against Frankie Edgar last month.
At the time when Holloway accepted to fight Nurmagomedov at 155 pounds, there were concerns he wouldn’t achieve the weight loss in the short amount of time. Inevitably it seemed a bridge too far.
It wasn’t until the official weigh-ins on Friday that the UFC announced Holloway would not be medically cleared to fight. Although according to “Blessed,” he would have made weight if it wasn’t for the New York State Athletic Commission pulling him from the card.
On a recent interview on “The MMA Hour,” Ariel Helwani asked Holloway about his weight at the time he accepted the fight.
“I was huge,” Holloway told Helwani.
When asked if he was above 180 pounds when he initially took the fight he smirked and responded with “Maybe.”
Helwani pressed further asking him on whether he was over 190 pounds. Again he didn’t provide a definitive answer.
“Nah…maybe…I don’t know,” he said, correcting himself. “It’s a secret. I’ll keep people guessing, but we were hitting the right numbers. Everything was coming good; everything was coming right.”
Holloway said that his vitals were checked consistently through the weight cut to ensure his body was handling everything OK on his quest to make the 155-pound limit.
“[Doctors] checked me on the morning of the weight cut on Thursday. And before media day they checked me and then they kept checking me. We were cutting weight and every time we were cutting they were coming in, coming in and coming in,” he said.
“The last real push, they came in and checked and they called it. Depressing sh*t, man. It’s pretty sad, but it is what it is. These things happen.”
Helwani told Holloway that he has heard claims Holloway got down to 159 pounds. To his surprise Holloway told him that it was even lower than that number and if he hadn’t been pulled by the New York State Athletic Commission he would have made the weight.
“We got a little bit under [159 pounds]. We were close, we were in striking distance for sure,” Holloway recalled.
“I think I would have [made weight]. I don’t know about safely, it’s a weight cut, but I had the game for doing it. We were doing it with [George] Lockhart. I have the utmost respect for Lockhart and Tyler Minton. This week they gave me their all. I got nothing but love for them and my coaches.
“On six days I got the fight. Eight hours later, me and my coaches are on an airplane to New York. You find out who your real ones are this week and it was a good one.”
While Holloway is known for his mental strength -- something that is key when undertaking a large weight cut -- he admitted this was a lot harder than his other cuts, but not something unimaginable.
“I never thought it was going to be impossible. It never once crossed my mind. It was harder than most [cuts] for sure. But I was just bigger, that’s it. I had a little bit more body fat on me than I usually do. It was just new experiences. It was nothing crazy,” he said.
“I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to die!’ or things like that -- never ever. This is part of the game, it was just harder than most [weight cuts]. We took the challenge knowing the consequences. We went out there and we did the damn thing.
“We got stopped, we got pulled and the sh*t hurts. It’s been a hurtful year for me so far. I’d never pulled out of a fight in my life and then I got two pulled on me, two big ones too. It’s a tough pill to swallow right now.”
For now, Holloway is focused on defending his featherweight belt and has earmarked the November card in Madison Square Garden for his return to the Octagon.