LAS VEGAS — With a months-long barrage of trash talk and provocative posturing, Colby Covington and champion Kamaru Usman have infused their welterweight title bout at UFC 245 with political, racial and very personal overtones.
Before they get in the cage Saturday night, two of the UFC’s most durable, likable champions will entertain the mixed martial arts world without pandering or preening.
Max Holloway and Amanda Nunes are among the toughest and winningest fighters of their generation, and their latest title defences against Alex Volkanovski and Germaine De Randamie are both likely to be more entertaining than the main event bout between two wrestlers who sometimes talk better than they punch.
Holloway and Nunes aren’t complaining, however. They know controversy sells pay-per-views, and they’re not mad about being along for the ride on this main event that feels more like a sideshow.
“I got to talk a little bit less at the press conferences, which is cool,” Holloway said with a laugh. “Those guys, they’ve got stuff. I wish I was a little bit lighter and I could have grabbed my popcorn. Things are getting heated up.”
The T-Mobile Arena crowd is likely to be strongly behind Holloway, the genial Hawaii native who hasn’t fought in Las Vegas since 2015. His scheduled bout here last year was scrapped at late notice when Holloway exhibited symptoms of a concussion.
Holloway went back to work with a renewed focus on recovery and health, citing the examples of LeBron James and other elite athletes who spend millions on recovery and training.
“I’ve got some of the greatest minds in MMA behind me, and they make sure I’m good all around,” Holloway said.
Holloway was on a 13-bout winning streak against some of the sport’s best fighters until earlier this year, when he moved up to lightweight and lost to Dustin Poirier. Holloway rebounded with a featherweight title defence victory over Frankie Edgar, and his acceptance of another title defence against Volkanovski doesn’t mean he has given up multi-belt championship dreams.
“It’s not even the belts that intrigue me,” Holloway said. “It’s being the best mixed martial arts fighter in the world that intrigues me. Being the best in the world is not somebody who stays at a weight and dominates his weight. He’s willing to go to whatever weight. But I’m not overlooking Alex. When you overlook somebody, you lose.”
Volkanovski (20-1) has emerged from Australia as a serious contender for the featherweight title with 17 consecutive wins since 2013, including seven straight in the UFC.