Max Holloway put on a show in the main event of the first combat sports card aired on ABC since 2000.
It was striking, really.
“I’m the best boxer in the UFC,” Holloway yelled Saturday in Abu Dhabi while slipping Calvin Kattar punches and landing combos during the fifth-round of his dominant unanimous victory at UFC Fight Night.
The Oahu fighter backed up his claim statistically, landing a UFC-record 445 significant strikes to leave Kattar bloodied and battered in the 145-pound fight. Holloway, the former UFC featherweight champion, said afterward that he figured he was delivering 15-20 punches a round and was wondering, “Why am I getting so tired?”
“After I heard the record, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s probably why,”’ he said during his postfight news conference. “I have to go back to math. Third-grade match is hurting my brain.”“
And yet, Holloway (22-6) took Kattar (26-5) to school, starting fast with a flurry of punches and opening Kattar’s forehead with a elbow in the second round. He even fired off a few no-look punches for good effect in racking up 10-8 rounds.
The judges scored the fight 50-43, 50-43, 50-42.
Beyond showmanship, Holloway needed this performance to stay solidly in championship bout contention.
The 28-year-old had lost three of four coming in, and a loss might have severely damaged his hopes of a ninth career title fight.
“People were calling me out,” Holloway said. “I have a chip on my shoulder. I wanted to prove that Hawaii boxing is a little different.
“I was just having the time of my life.”
And in his mind, his work in Abu Dhabi might not be done.
The mixed martial arts promotion’s first pay-per-view card, UFC 257, of the year is next Saturday, headlined by a bout between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. Holloway intends to stick around just in case he’s needed for backup.
“If anything happens to McGregor or Poirier, Dana (White) has my number,” Holloway said.
White, the UFC president, quickly squashed that notion.
“I think he deserves to go home and take some time off,” White said. “I respect it, but yeah, we’re good. We’re covered.”