The UFC featherweight belt did a contortionist act after Conor McGregor knocked out inaugural champ Jose Aldo in 13 seconds at UFC 194 on December 12, 2015. McGregor was scheduled to challenge for the lightweight title but instead ended up going 1-1 with Nate Diaz, at welterweight, before finally beating Eddie Alvarez for the 155 belt at UFC 205 on November 12, 2016.
In the meantime, on July 9, 2016 at UFC 200, Aldo beat Frankie Edgar via Unanimous Decision for the interim UFC featherweight championship. When it was clear that McGregor was never going to defend at 145, the UFC made Aldo’s interim belt the full one. Meanwhile, McGregor was declaring that he still held both belts, and held them up for all to see, over and over.
Then Aldo was unable to fight due to injury, and Max Holloway fought Anthony Pettis for the interim title. But Pettis didn’t make weight, so if he had won, he wouldn’t have earned the belt. Pettis lost, so Holloway was the interim champ, but it’s legitimacy was on a par with Germaine de Randamie’s.
At UFC 212 on Saturday night, Holloway emphatically beat Aldo for the belt, and the division had a clear champion. Further, McGregor is now boxing Floyd Mayweather, so his shadow finally falls far from the UFC featherweight division.
During his latest Believe You Me podcast, UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping said the Holloway win was the best outcome for the division.
“I think it’s fantastic that Max Holloway won and I think he had to win to put life back into the 145 division,” said Bisping, as transcribed by Jed Meshew for MMA Fighting. “Because honestly, Jose Aldo is a great fighter, Jose Aldo had an amazing career, Jose Aldo this, Jose Aldo that, all this f***ing good stuff is so positive – I was not for one second buying Jose Aldo as the featherweight champion. I’m sorry but he got knocked the eff out in 13 seconds and then in his next fight he fights Frankie Edgar and all of the sudden he’s the champion again. So for me, I never bought into that.
“On the other side, we had Max Holloway on a 10-fight win streak, getting better and better with every fight. The whole interim title fight at UFC 206 against Anthony Pettis, that was a little weak sauce so to speak but still, he beat him. Then he fights the undisputed champion which is bulls*** because he’s not the undisputed champion because he just got knocked out in his fight previous.”
“Now, fortunately, Max Holloway went out there and destroyed him. Great fight, very, very entertaining fight. Well done. So now we have, I think it’s fair to say, a legitimate champion that nobody can disparage or take away from because yes, he got beat by Conor but that was three or four years ago now and Max is a different fighter today. So 145 has a solidified, definite, undisputed featherweight champion of the world which I think is great for the division.”
Bisping has some belt legitimacy issues of his own. The Count is recovering from a knee injury, and Yoel Romero will fight Robert Whittaker for the interim title at UFC 213 on July 8. Bisping is expected to fight the winner of the UFC 213 main event, although he is still angling for a money fight with welterweight G.O.A.T. Georges St-Pierre, who has not fought since 2013.