Max Holloway (@BlessedMMA) February 15, 2019
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With Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov likely to return to the Octagon late this year, the division looks set to be stalled-out once again. Most would agree Tony Ferguson (24-3) should be the next challenger, and although it would be extremely harsh on him to fight for another interim title, it looks set to be the case. Dustin Poirier seems to be the ideal opponent for “El Cucuy” in a potential interim title fight. However, there have also been rumors and speculation that Conor McGregor could face Donald Cerrone for an interim title, as well.
Most interestingly, however, UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway (20-3) teased an interim title fight with Ferguson at UFC 236 in a social media post that sent mixed martial arts fans into a frenzy last week.
While there have been no concrete developments since then, it’s certainly one of the biggest fantasy matchups in the sport. Both fighters have also teased a fight in the past, so with that said, here’s a look at the history of the pair’s interactions with each other.
Their first major interaction seems to have occurred after UFC 206, where Holloway defeated Anthony Pettis via third-round TKO to become the new interim featherweight champion. “Blessed” would receive praise and congratulations from Ferguson on Twitter for his performance and would like the tweet.
Tony Ferguson (@TonyFergusonXT) December 11, 2016
Both fighters saw their stock grow in 2017. Holloway would go on to defeat Jose Aldo at UFC 212 to become the undisputed featherweight champion. Meanwhile, Ferguson would defeat Kevin Lee at UFC 216 to become the interim lightweight king, and at the time, seemed to be McGregor’s next opponent.
This eventually led to comparisons between the two. After all, they have similar frames, are well-rounded, boast two of the best active winning streaks in the UFC today, are known for their pressure and volume and coincidentally have winged angel tattoos on their back.
However, Holloway was not a fan of the comparisons. When the Hawaiian was gaming on his Twitch channel a couple of days after UFC 216, a fan claimed Holloway was the featherweight division’s answer to Ferguson, which incited this response.
“Don’t ever f------ call me anybody of the featherweight division,” Holloway responded. “I’m my damn self. This guy’s following my lead. I got to ten [wins in a row] faster than him, and I got my belt faster than him. So, do not compare me, motherf-----. I’m in a league of my own.”
Planting the seeds
Holloway would end 2017 by defending his title against Aldo and was soon slated for another title defense against Frankie Edgar at UFC 222. Ferguson would be competing a month later at UFC 223 against Nurmagomedov for the undisputed lightweight title, and a press conference was called in January involving the four fighters.
Given how Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov had been previously canceled three times, UFC president Dana White was asked if he had a contingency plan in case either fighter pulled out. Holloway was quick to offer his services. "You got a 145 champion here that would gladly take that spot after March 3." A smiling Ferguson responded soon after. “Somebody’s going to get their a-- kicked that day.”
Could the fight happen in 2019?
Unfortunately, both fighters had to pull out from their respective main events. Holloway suffered a leg injury which ruled him out of UFC 222, while Ferguson suffered a freak accident that tore his LCL and required surgery just a couple of days before UFC 223.
Holloway, who seemed to have recovered from his leg injury from the previous month, would stick to his words and step in for Ferguson against Nurmagomedov. However, six days’ notice was too short as he was deemed medically unfit to compete and had to pull out again.
Ferguson had a miraculously quick comeback and would compete just six months after his surgery at UFC 229 against Pettis in the co-main event. The bout was a Fight of the Year candidate where the 35-year-old emerged victorious when Pettis could no longer continue after the second round due to a broken hand.
Meanwhile, Holloway had to pull out once again when concussion-like symptoms rendered him unable to defend his title against Brian Ortega at UFC 226. However, he was able to end a nightmare year on a high when he returned to action at UFC 231 outclassing “T-City” over four rounds before his opponent’s corner called for an end to the fight.
Ferguson was impressed and offered to face Holloway in case Nurmagomedov had other plans.
Respect Ninja turtle https://t.co/lcGqqu1vXE— Max Holloway (@BlessedMMA) December 9, 2018
In the post-fight press conference of UFC 231, Holloway was asked about moving up to lightweight and the possibility of a Ferguson fight. “Hey, we’ll see what happens,” said “Blessed.” “That’s a fun fight. You guys watched Embedded, somebody called me Tony. I got a bone to pick.”
Given the amount of super-fights in recent years, anything is possible.