UFC Featherweight: What’s Next at 145, With or Without Max Holloway?

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max holloway UFC Featherweight
Max Holloway Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Now that we’ve seen UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway compete at lighweight, what’s next for the title-picture in the promotion’s 145-pound division?

The UFC’s featherweight division is in a weird place right now. The division’s champion, Max Holloway, just fought for an interim lightweight title, and lost. A couple of all-time greats in Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar will likely be gone soon. And several up-and-coming talents look primed for runs at the title in the near future.

While none of that sounds too crazy, the combination of those factors has blurred the title-picture at 145-pounds. Nobody knows what the champion is going to do next. Nobody knows who the next title-challenger is. There are some interesting options, but there isn’t a clear path to what’s going to happen next at featherweight.

The likes of Alexander Volkanovski, Mirsad Bektic, Zabit Magomedsharipov, and Renato Moicano are ushering in the next generation of 145-pound title contenders. Whether or not Holloway returns to featherweight, change is coming to the division. So, following UFC 236, what does the future hold for the title picture featherweight?

With Max Holloway

Should Holloway decide to return to featherweight to defend his belt, the first question we’d have to ask is for how long? It was a year ago that talk of Holloway moving up to lightweight gained some traction, following his health scare while cutting weight for a short-notice fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223. If the Hawaiian is going back to 145, is it for one fight? Two to three? We don’t know how long can we realistically expect him to put himself through the weight cut necessary to fight at featherweight.

We can at least examine where his next step could be. It’s likely that, if he goes back to featherweight, it would be on a fight-by-fight basis for the foreseeable future.

Due to his impressive 13-fight winning streak at 145-pounds, he’s fought (and defeated) several of the top contenders. We don’t need to see Holloway-Aldo 3, and a rematch with Brian Ortega would feel forced.

There’s Frankie Edgar. Although he hasn’t fought since April of 2018, the former lightweight champ has had two scheduled bouts with Holloway scrapped in the past. His resumé is undeniable. The matchup would likely draw pretty well. If Holloway goes back to featherweight, a title-fight with Edgar makes the most sense. Just ask Frankie.

After that, one option stands out. But even that option has an asterisk. That asterisk goes by the name of Jose Aldo. From the crop of rising stars at featherweight, Alexander Volkanovski appears to be the most ready for a shot at the title. We’ll learn whether or not that’s really the case at UFC 237 in May. Until then, Volkanovski is in the discussion.

That’s it. Unless the promotion wants to run back a rematch we don’t need, or force an up-and-coming fighter into a title-fight they don’t deserve and aren’t ready for, Holloway’s best options at featherweight are Edgar and Volkanovski*.

Those certainly aren’t bad options. But, compared to potential bouts with Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, Conor McGregor, and more at lightweight, the decision on which division Holloway should commit to seems easy from a fan’s perspective.

Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier ahead of UFC 236
Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier Credit: Mike Sloan/Sherdog.com

Without Max Holloway

Without Holloway, things certainly open up a bit. With a vacant title, the promotion can get creative, and find a way to avoid some of the matchmaking issues they currently have with Holloway as champion. Depending on when Holloway makes his decision, the UFC could stick the vacant, or an interim belt, on the Aldo-Volkanovski bout at UFC 237.

The biggest issue they would potentially face is, if Aldo wins, they’re back into a situation where they have a champion nearing the end of his run at 145-pounds, who has also fought much of the division. It would rule out Edgar for another title shot, as we don’t need Aldo-Edgar 3. A fresh matchup with Ortega sounds fun though, even if T-City is coming off of the first loss of his career.

If Volkanovski wins, fresh matchups with Edgar and Ortega await, while Moicano, Bektic, and Zabit attempt to climb the rankings in the meantime.

If the promotion opts to not put a belt on the Aldo-Volkanovski bout at UFC 237, it wouldn’t reduce the importance of the matchup when it comes to the future of the title picture at featherweight. Whoever wins that fight will likely find themselves in a featherweight title shot of some kind later this year, with Edgar and Ortega in the mix as well.

It might not be the guys we’ve grown accustomed to at the top-tier of the UFC’s 145-pound division. But the new crop of talent is something fans should be excited for. It’s a time of transition at featherweight, and we’re excited for what’s next. Even if it won’t include Holloway, Aldo, or Edgar for much longer.

Whether he’s competing at featherweight or lightweight, we’ll be tuning into whatever Max Holloway is up to next. Let us know what you think about the future of featherweight, and which division you think Holloway should fight in next! Comment below, on Facebook, or reply on Twitter!

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