With Max Holloway becoming a main event attraction in the UFC, the Waianae native’s campaign to bring the octagon to his hometown is picking up steam.
“The fact that the UFC in 2016, in 23 years of existence has not come there yet to me is a travesty,” MMAfighting.com’s Ariel Helwani told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello.
Holloway, who is riding a nine-fight winning streak, moved up to third in the official UFC featherweight division rankings following his dominant unanimous decision victory over fifth-ranked Ricardo Lamas Saturday at UFC 199.
“Much credit to him, as they say in Hawaii major, major performance,” Helwani said.
The 24-year-old’s budding superstar could be enough to bring the UFC to the 50th state, but Helwani thinks that filling the fight card with a strong group of local fighters is also key to the event coming to fruition.
“There’s a lot of great Hawaiian fighters in the UFC now. It kind of started with BJ Penn and I think a lot of these young fighters looked up to him. Now we’re seeing them blossom into superstars,” he said.
Eight local fighters call the octagon home with Hall of Famer BJ Penn still slated to come out of retirement.
Oahu’s Travis Browne is ranked seventh in the heavyweight division, while fellow Oahu native Louis Smolka is the world’s number-12 flyweight.
Still Holloway’s future remains in doubt with featherweight champion Conor McGregor currently competing at welterweight. A reward for the only man in UFC history to win nine straight bouts without a title shot could be a chance to perform in front of his home crowd.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing for Max Holloway to headline a card?” Helwani pondered.
“He deserves it, and that place would sell out wherever it is. So I hope finally that it would happen. You often see like in Dublin with Conor (McGregor), you need a homegrown talent to bring the UFC. They’ve got it in Max and they’ve got other young up-and-coming stars as well to fill up the card, I think it would be tremendous.”