If Khabib Nurmagomedov elects to return to the Octagon for one last fight, he figures to have plenty of suitors.
While some of the most likely potential opponents — Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler and Dan Hooker — occupy the upcoming UFC 257 card, Max Holloway wouldn’t back down if given the opportunity. The former featherweight champion returned to peak form in the UFC on ABC 1 headliner Saturday, as he authored a record-setting beatdown of Calvin Kattar at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.
One day prior to the event, Nurmagomedov and UFC president Dana White met to discuss the lightweight champion’s plans. The session wasn't particularly revealing, but “The Eagle” did leave the door slightly open for a comeback.
“Khabib wanted somebody to impress him, if I did impress him – because I know the way he thinks,” Holloway said. “He wants to fight for his legacy, he doesn’t care about money. He wants the toughest opponents. If I got to push him over the edge, so be it. We had one of the best press conferences ever, we just didn’t have the fight yet.”
Holloway references UFC 223, where he agreed to replace Tony Ferguson and face Nurmagomedov in a lightweight title bout in April 2018. Unfortunately, Holloway withdrew when his weight cut was deemed unsafe and Nurmagomedov went on to claim the vacant 155-pound belt with a victory against Al Iaquinta.
The win over Kattar halted a two-bout skid for Holloway, who was coming off a contentious split-decision loss to featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 251 this past July. Despite an 0-2 mark against the Volkanovski, the Hawaiian has been adamant in recent months about wanting a trilogy with the City Kickboxing standout. In the aftermath of his latest triumph, Holloway softened that stance somewhat.
“Volkanovski said—this is his words, not mine—he said he wants a different fight. He don’t want a tougher fight, guys, let that sink in. He wants a different fight,” Holloway said. “He didn’t say I want a tougher challenge. He knows who the toughest challenge is, he knows it’s me, so at the end of the day I’m not gonna force someone to fight me.”
Regardless of what his next move might be, the future looks bright for Holloway. His brilliant performance against Kattar has set him up for another high-profile bout down the road — whether there’s a title involved remains to be seen.
“I want legacy fights, I want big fights, I want fights like this, we’re on ABC,” Holloway said. “I want history. So belt, no belt, whatever it is, I want to fight. … You guys think someone is the best fighter in the world, you guys tell me, let me know. I’ll sign on that dotted line.”