Holloway unable to make weight, out of title fight
Featherweight champion from Oahu had taken fight on six days’ notice
By DAN GELSTON
The Associated Press
UFC has a new main event for its New York return.
Al Iaquinta, a winner of five straight bouts, will step in and fight in the main event of UFC 223 today after Oahu’s Max Holloway was forced to drop out.
Iaquinta has agreed to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov in a lightweight bout at Barclays Center, steadying a promotion thrown into upheaval following criminal charges against star Conor McGregor.
Holloway had agreed to fight Nurmagomedov on Saturday on just six days’ notice after original challenger Tony Ferguson injured a knee. But the featherweight champion from Waianae was unable to reach the weight limit for the bout Friday and was ruled out by the UFC medical team.
Holloway apologized on Twitter to Nurmagomedov, saying he wants “to keep going but they are stopping me. Sorry to your team and the fans.”
UFC then scrambled to find a last-second sub for Holloway in the headline bout at a sold-out Barclays in Brooklyn.
Iaquinta, who was scheduled to fight Paul Felder, got the nod.
Iaquinta did not meet the 155-pound limit — he came in at 155.2 — when he weighed in Friday morning for his fight against Felder before Holloway was scratched. Nurmagomedov will become the lightweight champ should he win. Iaquinta will not be crowned the champ with a victory, but UFC president Dana White said Friday night he could decide to make Iaquinta the champ with a victory.
“If he wins, we’ll figure it out,” White said.
UFC offered full refunds because of the changes to the main event.
Holloway already was the 145-pound champion and was trying to become a two-division champ by beating the undefeated Nurmagomedov in the 155-pound title fight. Holloway and Nurmagomedov were fighting for the lightweight title left vacant by McGregor’s nearly 18-month absence.
The original card had shaped up as the best of the year and White said it was trending toward the best pay-per-view buy rate since McGregor’s last fight at UFC 205.
But the backstage melee McGregor allegedly instigated because of his anger toward Nurmagomedov instead has forced the removal of three fights because of injuries from the attack.
McGregor was arraigned Friday on charges of felony criminal mischief charges and misdemeanor assault, menacing and reckless endangerment charges. He was released on $50,000 bond.
“To be honest, I hope he’s going to fix his problem,” Nurmagomedov said. “We have to fix our problems between me and him. Inside the cage or outside the cage, it doesn’t matter, we have to fix this.”