With Max Holloway’s sensational UFC 231 performance confined to UFC history, debate has now turned to his standing among the elite fighter’s the 145lb division has seen, many are now placing him at the very top of that list. Holloway shied away from the title of greatest in his post-fight press conference, pointing to the inaugural and longtime king of 145 Jose Aldo as the benchmark still to be chased by himself and the rest of the division. Whilst Conor McGregor paused his incessant Whisky promoting to hit social media and proclaim himself the greatest in a response to a fans tweet in the aftermath of Saturdays main event.
One thing is sure the best is certainly one of these three men. As the only champions in the divisions relatively short history. Each hold various credentials for the title, which we will go through as we assess their greatness.
Max Holloway is riding a 13 fight win streak, a run that has lasted almost five years. Holloway joined the UFC in 2012 becoming the youngest fighter on the roster. The UFC showed little sign of easing Holloway into the big leagues as he faced a baptism of fire that saw him initially go 3-3 with the company.
The continuous improvement and evolution of Holloway’s game has saw him propel himself to championship status and into the pound for pound rankings. High profile wins over Cub Swanson, Jeremy Stephens, Ricardo Lamas and Anthony Pettis help make up an impressive resume for the current Featherweight champion, who was ultimately awarded a shot at Jose Aldo who held the strap.
Holloway’s main claim to the greatest 145lb’er title lays within his two impressive performances against Jose Aldo, who Holloway was able to score TKO victories, both coming in round 3 of the fights. Holloway overwhelmed Aldo with high volume striking that eventually told on both occasions.
However, it was this weekend’s performance that elevated Holloway to GOAT status, as despite a tough 2018, which saw him sidelined for various medical issues including concussion-like symptoms and weight cutting problems. Such were the extent of these problems, many believed he would come unstuck against the undefeated Brian Ortega, including the bookmakers who had Holloway an underdog to successfully defend his title. Holloway emerged victorious, putting a four-round beat down on the game Ortega who was eventually pulled out by the merciful ringside physicians.
At 27 years old, riding a crazy UFC win streak and effectively clearing out a division with just two defences, Max Holloway’s claim for the best ever at 145lbs is strong and he now has the opportunity to cement his status, with his prime fighting years very much ahead of him.
Jose Aldo is perhaps the most decorated of the contenders for the best Featherweight of all time crown. The former WEC and inaugural UFC champion had a run many can only dream of. Over the span of 8 years, the Brazilian amassed an 18 fight win streak and a legion of fans, establishing himself as the very best by continuously dealing with all comers.
His record is littered with the who’s who of the MMA elite. From his flying knee knockout of Cub Swanson, his brutal leg kicking display against Urijah Faber to his double victories over Chad Mendes and former Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. Jose Aldo certainly has the most extensive and impressive resume of the three contenders.
Upon the creation of the UFC’s Featherweight division, Aldo was immediately installed as champion. For 4 years Aldo dominated the divisions racking up 7 successful title defences, during which he was rarely troubled by his opponents.
Now 32 years of age, in the midst of a 14-year fight career Aldo has shown signs he may not be what he once was. His claims as the greatest are somewhat dampened by the fact the two other contenders have convincingly stopped him when they have met.
Conor McGregor has become the face of the UFC and one of the biggest stars in all of the sports over the past few years. His bravado and out of ring antics often take the shine off of his incredible talent and huge success inside the octagon. His featherweight run was nonetheless a dominant one as, he quickly ran through the division, spectacularly claiming the title and backing up his own claims as Featherweight great.
McGregor’s impressive run at 145 saw the Irishman pick up high profile victories over Dustin Poirier and Chad Mendes, who many saw as massive roadblocks to McGregor’s path to superstardom. The great run was only amplified by the fact McGregor consistently predicted his finishes, make bold predictions pre-fight, then bringing words into action with amazing style.
McGregor also holds a win over current champion Max Holloway, he is the last man to defeat Holloway and did so impressively. After a round of a consistent striking beat down, McGregor tore his ACL in the second round. He fought through the adversity and displayed good wrestling skills to cruise to a unanimous decision victory.
After around the world tour, a rescheduled date, late replacement opponents and an interim title, Conor McGregor finally got his shot at Jose Aldo in 2015. In one of the most shocking moments in UFC history, McGregor swiftly ended the Jose Aldo era, with the first punch of the fight he left the great champion Aldo comatose on the octagon floor.
McGregor, however, has never defended his title, instead of going on to become the company’s first double Champion, picking up the Lightweight title, which he’s also never defended. The consistent desire to chase high profile or money fights has left McGregor’s fighting capability questioned by many fans. Inactivity and a switch to boxing have seen McGregor fail to fulfil his great potential, as he refuses to stay the course and defend against all comers.
The question of greatest will continue to be debated by fans around the world. All three of these elite Featherweights have strong and rightful claims to this title. With all three men still active and relatively young, this may be a question we see emphatically answered in the coming years as the fighters more than likely will meet again. Right now though no-one seems to be able to separate them.