It’s difficult to narrow down a clear-cut ‘Fighter of the Year’ for 2017. We’ve seen so many amazing things happen and were blindsided by curve ball after curve ball. It just epitomized how unpredictable this combat game is and that no one is safe, no matter how high the perch. If you’re opening up the discussion for candidates though, no question Holloway needs to be on it. After taking out former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis right at the end of 2016, he won the interim featherweight title. This year, he unified and defended it by beating Jose Aldo twice, something no one had ever done. It’s these accomplishments that factored into Rolling Stone awarding him with their 2017 Fighter of the Year award.
“It’s surreal. When I found out I was like, ‘Holy sh-t. This is cool as sh-t.’ I’m not going to lie. There’s a bunch of fighters who could have been up for ‘Fighter of the Year’ – Robert Whittaker, Rose Namajunas, Demetrious Johnson. To be chosen, it’s in my nickname: I’m ‘Blessed.’ It’s been a crazy year. I got to fight the greatest of all-time in my weight division not once, but twice. I was watching this guy when I was 16 years old when I first started kickboxing. I wanted to fight [Jose] Aldo in a kickboxing match. A couple years later I came to MMA and wanted to fight him. 10 years later, I got to fight the man twice. It’s a lot of life goals I got to do. It’s hard to put in words.”
— UFC (@ufc) December 24, 2017
“It’s what kings do. If you want to be the best you have to beat the best. He was an undisputed champ, I was the No. 1 contender, interim champ. I had one belt, he had one and it was time to unify. What better place to do it than in his home country, his home town and his backyard? It was my night. He had a great start, but I had a great finish. In 2018 I want two or three title defense and two or three times of putting the hammer down and letting everyone know that I’m here to stay for a long time. ‘The Blessed Era’ is in full effect. There’s a lot of new contenders rising. I’m excited about the future. It’s about proving my worth now. I get to show that 2017 wasn’t a fluke. I’ll fight everyone and anyone. This is just one year of champ life and I’m not ready to give it up.” — Max Holloway speaking to Rolling Stone.
That’s one of the many hard realities about MMA. Max Holloway finished featherweight’s consensus greatest-of-all-time back-to-back and we all want to know what’s next. Can he defend against Frankie Edgar? Can he defend against Brian Ortega? Is there a superfight in his future? These are the questions that will center around Holloway moving into next year. All eyes will be on him as he intends on making 2018 a continuation of his ‘Blessed Era’. Congratulations, Holloway. You deserve this.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 12/26/2017.