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Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier are set to clash for the interim lightweight title in the headliner of UFC 236 on April 13 in Atlanta, as first reported by Brett Okamoto on ESPN.com. Holloway will retain his featherweight belt regardless of the result. Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum will serve as the co-main event; it will be the first UFC card headlined by two interim title fights.
The clash comes as current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has opted to sit out until November. He is currently suspended for inciting a brawl after his UFC 229 victory over Conor McGregor, but could have returned by April- a six-month suspension- if he had filmed an anti-bullying message in Nevada.
The odd man out in this contest is Tony Ferguson. Holloway-Ferguson was reportedly considered, but the UFC ultimately ended up with Holloway-Poirier. Ferguson posted recently about being offered a bout, but said he wasn’t sure it was up to the standards he deserved for the work he had put in. Perhaps having won the interim title previously, and having it promptly stripped after a freak accident tore his knee, soured him on interim titles.
It isn’t clear how the title picture will work after this. Will the interim champion defend their belt, or wait seven months to unify it against Khabib? Where will that leave Tony Ferguson? Will Conor McGregor re-emerge to affect those plans at all?
Either way, the fight between Max and Dustin itself is incredibly compelling. Poirier defeated Holloway in Max’s Octagon debut in 2012, taking him to the mat and tapping him in the first round. Since then, Holloway has gone on a 13-fight tear to win and defend featherweight gold. Poirier, who moved to lightweight after a knockout loss to Conor McGregor, has won 8 of his last 10 bouts, including wins over Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gathje, and Anthony Pettis.
Who has the edge in the contest? Both fighters seem incapable of having a boring fight. Since beating Jose Aldo, Holloway has stepped up the pace and the pressure into a ‘Mad Max’ version of his style, racking up an unbelievable 290 strikes to set a new UFC record against Brian Ortega at UFC 231. Poirier is no slouch in that department himself, landing 174 strikes to stop Justin Gaethje in the 4th-most prolific win in UFC history.
Holloway recently posted about his first encounter with Poirier while paying tribute to Georges St. Pierre’s retirement.
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This was at my first UFC fight. It was against Dustin Porier. My career started by being finished. Becoming champion was not easy for me but the instructions were clear. I had to just keep beating the guy in front of me. After 10 wins in a row I got my title shot. But when I became champion there were no instructions on what to do next. I had to figure out what it meant to me. How to represent my team and my community. How to express my values as a martial artist. How to be a good father to my son while trying to entertain fans. I'm still figuring it out every day but I looked to GSP to create a blueprint for myself on the martial artist I would be. Many people think I named my son Rush after GSP. I didn't but Rush watches everything I do so GSPs influence is there every day. Thank you GSP from me and Rush @georgesstpierre
Julie Kedzie relates one last great GSP story
I like this fighter art
Page 1 of The Year in Fighting: 2019 coming along. I found a designer and we’re talking about a physical book. pic.twitter.com/fR9Qe6RN9O— Chris Rini (@RiniMMA) February 22, 2019
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God makes everything so perfect! I am so happy to be able to share this news! I’m going to be a Mom! I love so much our family and now I have one more HUGE motivation for inside and outside the ring!! Thank you God for this blessing @santoswesley ❤️ I also want to thank all my fans and sponsors for the support during all the life phases and I can’t wait to be back in the ring! • • • • • Deus faz tudo perfeito!!! Estou muito feliz em poder dividir com vcs essa notícia! Vou ser Mãe!!!! Amo tanto essa minha família, agora tenho mais uma motivação dentro e fora do octógono!! Que esse/essa bebe venha com muita saúde. Agradeço Deus por essa benção @santoswesley ❤️. Também quero agradecer todos meus fãs e patrocinadores pelo apoio durante todas as fases da vida e não vejo a hora de voltar as lutas
Slips, Rips, KO Clips
That’s one way to get a rear-naked choke
Gabriel Marretinha Bonfim (8:0 now) RNCed Moacir Cordeiro in 2R (Future FC) pic.twitter.com/rbWKG8e10A— Jolassanda (@Jolassanda) February 23, 2019
This is a nasty submission to find yourself in after a head-and-arm throw
Ayaka Miura (8-2, 1 NC) shines in her ONE debut, swiftly submitting Laura Balin with her signature scarf hold armlock! The Pancrase vet has won four straight and is 7-1 (1 NC) in her last nine. Each of her last three submissions is via this rare armlock. #CallToGreatness pic.twitter.com/36G81xipnf— Kyle Johnson (@VonPreux) February 22, 2019
Baby shark do do do...
This was a graceful knockout; Petchdam glided across the ring to land that one-two.
I like this combination
Nieky Holzken doing his thing
Ryan Bader would be proud of that lead hook