Back to prove that they’re worth the weight

Fighters Hol­loway and Je­drze­jczyk ready for re­demp­tion, to si­lence doubters at UFC 231.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Lance Pug­mire lance.pug­[email protected]­

TORONTO — Feather­weight cham­pion Max Hol­loway and for­mer women’s strawweight cham­pion Joanna Je­drze­jczyk have eyed UFC 231 on Satur­day as their chance at re­demp­tion.

Hol­loway took the first step by mak­ing weight at 1441⁄2 pounds. Je­drze­jczyk, mov­ing up in weight to face for­mer Muay Thai ri­val Valentina Shevchenko for the women’s fly­weight ti­tle, says she’s ready too.

“Peo­ple might not think 10 pounds is much of a dif­fer­ence, but yes it is … the weight and power of the punches … I’m go­ing to be a com­pletely dif­fer­ent an­i­mal,” Je­drze­jczyk said.

Hol­loway (19-3) in­sists he’ll be his same old self in his long-an­tic­i­pated fight against Har­bor City’s un­beaten, topranked con­tender Brian Ortega (14-0) in the main event at Sco­tia­bank Arena. Hol­loway with­drew from their first sched­uled fight in July with what was de­scribed as “con­cus­sion ef­fects.” It was the sec­ond straight time he’s pulled out of a fight, af­ter fall­ing ill in April dur­ing the weight-cut­ting process.

Ortega re­fused a re­place­ment fight, and his man­ager, Ed Soares, struck a deal with UFC Pres­i­dent Dana White that if Hol­loway failed to make weight this week, he would va­cate the belt and Ortega would stage a re­match with Brazil’s Re­nato Moicano for it.

As it turned out, Moicano was the one who missed weight Fri­day, de­spite be­ing se­cured to step in as a re­place­ment if needed.

How­ever, Hol­loway made weight a few min­utes af­ter Ortega weighed in at 144 pounds, and the cham­pion pressed his right in­dex finger to his lips as if to quiet all doubters.

“I’m good. Ev­ery­one keeps on say­ing it was a con­cus­sion thing. We took all these tests. The doc­tors would’ve told the UFC if it was a weight-cut­ting thing,” Hol­loway said this week of his pre­vi­ous with­drawal. “Peo­ple will be­lieve what they want to be­lieve.”

He said his team launched “an in­ves­ti­ga­tion” into his health is­sues in July, telling an­other re­porter it might’ve been some­thing he ate.

“I’ll be sharp,” said Hol­loway, who has won 12 con­sec­u­tive fights dat­ing to a 2013 loss to Conor McGre­gor. “Why fix some­thing that’s not bro­ken? Some un­for­tu­nate events hap­pened. It is what it is. You don’t cry over spilled milk. Don’t worry about it.”

Hol­loway blamed his April weight-cut­ting woes for a light­weight meet­ing against cur­rent cham­pion Khabib Nur­magome­dov on hav­ing less than a week to pre­pare to step in as a re­place­ment for in­jured Tony Fer­gu­son.

“I had eight weeks for this and I can’t wait to fight again,” Hol­loway said.

The weigh-in con­cern was such that White said Hol­loway should fight as a light­weight from now on, and Ortega’s box­ing coach James Luhrsen said they spent some time on the pos­si­bil­ity of fac­ing Moicano in­stead of Hol­loway.

But Hol­loway is en­thused and ready for the chal­lenge.

“This is a fight for the MMA in­sid­ers,” he said. “This fight will be the one peo­ple talk about when they say, ‘I wish these two guys could fight … .’ He’s young. I’m young. Both in our prime.”

Je­drze­jczyk (15-2) has moved up to 123.5 pounds af­ter her im­pres­sive reign as the 115-pound cham­pion ended in two losses to Rose Na­ma­ju­nas. The dif­fi­culty of ag­ing and stay­ing at that min­i­mal weight was an ob­vi­ous strain on the for­mer cham­pion.

At 125 pounds, she says, “I’m very happy. I trained dif­fer­ent. I was full of en­ergy, in a good mood. I didn’t have to starve my­self to get to the weight limit. I feel much bet­ter. I’ve put on bet­ter work each day and I’m very happy I did this move.

“This camp, I real­ized how bad be­ing on a diet for so many weeks is for me, and how it im­pacts your body and per­for­mance. I said that af­ter my fight with Rose, while my coach has said, ‘Let’s move up. You’re go­ing to feel dif­fer­ent, feel stronger and en­joy the process of the cut more.’ ”

In three Muay Thai meet­ings be­tween 2006 and 2008, Shevchenko beat Je­drze­jczyk each time. Both fighters now are on the other side of 30 and have de­vel­oped their tech­niques — wrestling, for ex­am­ple, isn’t per­mit­ted in Muay Thai fight­ing — but Shevchenko still ex­pects a standup fight.

“She can say it’s not af­fect­ing her. It’s af­fect­ing her,” Shevchenko said of their his­tory. “I will use it to help me win this fight. My fa­vorite part is strik­ing. It will be a very strik­ing fight.”

Je­drze­jczyk em­pha­sized her ex­pe­ri­ence in five-round cham­pi­onship fights, not­ing that eight of her 11 UFC bouts have been for a belt.

“Valentina is strong men­tally, but I don’t look back, I look for­ward,” she said. “Our fights were 10, 12 years ago. We are two very dif­fer­ent fighters. I know I’ve been evolv­ing ev­ery day and I will be the bet­ter one Satur­day.”



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