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Max Holloway on UFC 223 withdrawal: NYSAC pulled me out because I looked ‘skinny’

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Max Holloway talks to Joe Rogan about his kiboshed UFC 223 title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018.

UFC 223: Press Conference
Max Holloway revealed some behind-the-scenes information on his canceled UFC 223 title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

UFC 223 will go down in history as one of the oddest, most fiasco-filled events that ever came to be.

In a span of six days, we saw one of the biggest lightweight fights fall out because of cable wires, three opponent changes for Khabib Nurmagomedov, and an angry Irishman throw a dolly at a bus window to ultimately force two matchups off the card.

But some of the incidents that happened behind the scenes were apparently as messy. One of them involved Max Holloway, the first man tapped to replace the injured Tony Ferguson.

Holloway recently went on the JRE MMA Show to reveal some of the stuff he had to deal with.

“(Nutritionist George) Lockhart took me on for the fight,” Holloway recalled. “We called him, we had a talk, and then he did a freaking interview talking about ‘this is the biggest cut we’re ever gonna do…’

“And then the first thing that happened when I land, a f—king meeting with the f—king… not even with the UFC doctor, a doctor from the New York Commission. And then they tell me (that) every single f—king day, they’re gonna check up on us. And I was like, ‘Holy shit, what the hell?’ And I was fine. I was a little bit bigger than I usually was.”

As we all know by now, Holloway was pulled off from the fight as the early weigh-ins were happening. No specific reasons were given. But at the time, officials from the New York State Athletic Commission declared him “medically unfit to fight.”

According to a member of Holloway’s camp, one of the doctors came up to them and “just stopped it.” The former 145-pound champion corroborated the said statement while revealing a little more.

“I’m like four pounds away from making the weight. I’m going like, ‘It’s tough, but I’m gonna get there. I know I’m gonna get there,’” Holloway said. “And then they come in and they check, and we have, like, hours left before weigh-ins.

“They come in, they check, they looked at me and they said, ‘You don’t look good. You can’t do it.’ That’s all that happened. And they walked out. I wasn’t fighting. I was like,’ What do you mean?’ He was like, ‘You look skinny.’

“I was like, ‘Coming down, losing weight, I’m pretty sure I’m not gonna look like how I first met you on f—king Monday. What is going on?’”

For Holloway, it was “heartbreaking” to have his loved ones fly in from Hawaii and not get to see him compete. But what frustrated him more was losing the opportunity to fight someone like Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“The chance of fighting someone of that stature, and I pride myself for fighting anybody, anywhere, any time, any weight class…

“He was already considered the number one pound-for-pound guy in the world before he even had the belt. He was one of the scariest dudes, they said. I just wanted to fight him.”

Al Iaquinta ended up being Khabib’s official opponent that night. After a one-sided five-rounder, it was “The Eagle” who took home the vacant 155-pound title.