At the conclusion of Max Holloway’s featherweight title defense against Frankie Edgar, on Saturday night at UFC 240, I didn’t feel the way I usually do after a pay-per-view card. I wasn’t buzzed on adrenaline, unable to sleep—which is often the case for me after a big fight. In fact, I went to bed surprisingly soon after the main event had wrapped up, waiting up just long enough to see what Dana White had to say at the post-fight press conference.
I can’t really pinpoint it, but it was a different feeling. A lackluster one. (Maybe I was just tired, because the UFC still hasn’t moved its pay-per-view cards to an earlier timeslot.)
Holloway’s win over Edgar didn’t feel like a big deal to me. But this is the best featherweight in the world – Holloway – and a future Hall of Famer – Edgar – we’re talking about. Plus, this fight was more important than usual for both of them. Holloway was coming off a loss to Dustin Poirier, which snapped his ridiculous 13-fight winning streak, and this could’ve been Edgar’s last shot at recapturing UFC gold (he held the lightweight title seven years ago). It was a BIG deal.
But, it was almost as if I knew the outcome of the fight before it even started. (Yes, I know I’d be eating major crow right now if Edgar had pulled off the upset.) From his size and youth to his takedown defense and striking ability, Holloway just had too many advantages – skill-wise and physically – for me to be intrigued by him fighting a 37-year-old Edgar. And as much as Edgar has done in his legendary career, it’s up for debate whether Edgar even deserved this shot at Holloway—with Alexander Volkanovski patiently waiting in the wings.
But it’s OK that Holloway’s win over Edgar didn’t feel like a big deal. The fight with Edgar wasn’t meant to be a defining moment in Holloway’s still-young career; it wasn’t supposed to be a giant blockbuster. After all, this was an ‘in between’ pay-per-view card. With UFC 239 and UFC 241 absolutely stacked, UFC 240 became kind of a throwaway. This was simply about Holloway getting back on track, and adding a big name to his resume in the process.
It seemed obvious that the Poirier loss had little-to-no impact on Holloway before or during his fight with Edgar. Holloway looked like the same Holloway we’ve gotten used to seeing over the past few years. And after a brief trip up to 155 pounds, he also showed he can still make 145 pounds—and probably will be able to for a while longer. That was important for Holloway to do, too.
This was Holloway’s moment to prove any doubters wrong—the few that exist, anyway. And although this wasn’t necessarily as impressive as Holloway’s demolition of Brian Ortega last winter, Edgar (whether it’s 2009 or 2019) is still an important name to have on anyone’s resume.
Now, Holloway can focus on his real next big challenge: Volkanovski. Whether it happens at UFC 243 in Melbourne or not, there’s no way this isn’t the next UFC featherweight title fight. Undefeated in the UFC, Volkanovski is on a 17-fight winning streak and is coming off a massive win over Jose Aldo. He has risen through the ranks at 145 quickly, but he’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s an animal on the ground who beats his opponents to a pulp with ground-and-pound, and he’s tenacious on the feet. He hasn’t really shown any holes in his game throughout his time in the UFC.
But if there’s anyone who can stop the wrecking ball that is Volkanovski, it’s “Blessed.” All respect to Edgar – who has done it all in this sport – but if we’re being honest with ourselves, he was just the appetizer… now Holloway is diving into the main course.