I’m not sure whether to applaud Max Holloway for taking the risk in moving up to 155 to fight Dustin Poirier for the interim UFC lightweight championship or chastise him for making a very poorly calculated career move.
Holloway is the reigning 145 champion, one of the top pound for pound fighters in the sport, and seemingly untouchable at his weight class while gaining in popularity each time he fights. Holloway vs. Poirier will serve as the main event of UFC 236 in April. It’s not unusual for UFC to throw together an interim title fight when an obvious pay-per-view headliner doesn’t present itself but they’ve doubled down with this one. The previously announced interim middleweight championship fight between Kelvin Gastelum and Israel Adesanya will serve as the number two fight that night. It’s worth noting both of the respective champions, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Robert Whittaker fought less than a year ago and are both on track to return before the year is up.
This fight just makes me wonder, what’s in it for Max Holloway? Does the whole “champ champ” thing really mean anything anymore? And does it ever mean anything when one of those “champs” is an interim title? The best Holloway can hope for is to beat Poirier, and secure a unification bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov later this year. It seems simple, but that’s asking a lot when you break it down. First, he has to beat Poirier, which is not easy. He tried once before and failed. Sure it was seven years ago at 145, but Poirier may have improved just as much as Holloway has since that day.
Then, if he does win, UFC actually has to follow through and book him against Nurmagomedov in a unification bout. UFC’s track record of seeing interim titles through to their logical ends has not been good as of late. Ask Tony Ferguson and Colby Covington how their interim title reigns went. When you take this recent history and couple it with the allure of a Nurmagomedov-Conor McGregor rematch, any lightweight interim title fight seems doomed from the start.
So there’s likely little for Holloway to gain from all of this besides a lot of frustration. What does he have to lose though? Plenty, actually.
Holloway is risking exactly what TJ Dillashaw did when he went down in weight to challenge Henry Cejudo last month. If he loses, he’s forced to move back up to his home division with his tail between his legs and try and repair your credibility as a strong champion.
The risk of this just seems to big for Holloway to make the fight worthwhile. The Poirier fight is not a big money fight by any means, it’s not a legacy type opponent that he can add to his resume. It’s Dustin Poirier, a very good fighter but probably just below the very top tier of lightweights. It’s a chance to get a win back, but I doubt most fans remember he lost to Poirier in his UFC debut, and even fewer hold it against him.
We as fans though, have plenty to gain because we’ll get to see a fun fight between to fighters who don’t seem to know how to have a bad fight. Holloway has much more to lose than he does to gain, but I’m sure he knows that.
As he would say, “It is what it is.”