UFC 284 was a big event for the featherweight division. Undisputed champion Alexander Volkanovski tried (and failed) to win the lightweight title from Islam Makhachev while Yair Rodriguez claimed the interim featherweight title with a second-round submission win over Josh Emmett. The latter matchup left Allen, currently the No. 4-ranked featherweight in the UFC, as the odd man out of the 145-pound title picture. Allen now faces Holloway in the main event of UFC Kansas City on April 15. To hear him tell it, things worked out rather well.
“It was the matchup I was hoping for when they announced the interim fight,” Allen said on The MMA Hour. “So I was kind of — not surprised, I was expecting it. But then the UFC doesn’t always do what you expect. Sometimes they come out of left field with some, and I’m like, ‘Hang on a minute, what’s going on there?’ But in a way I was sort of relieved, because that was the next best option out there that wasn’t an interim title shot. For me, I think this is bigger than that opportunity.
“All respect to Yair, but Max beat him the last time out.”
“Also, given the fights he’s had with Volkanovski,” Allen continued. “I scored the second one for Max Holloway, and how impressive Alex has been looking, that makes Max look even better. How competitive he’s been. Obviously the last fight wasn’t very competitive, but they’ve been very close decisions, and Volkanovski’s gone up in weight against someone nobody wants to fight and has looked amazing, and I thought he won.”
Holloway is one of the most accomplished fighters in UFC, with three featherweight title defenses to his name and a litany of records in the promotion. He lost the belt to Volkanovski at UFC 245 and then lost another controversial fight six-months later, prompting a trilogy bout at UFC 276, which Volkanovski won convincingly.
That performance, coupled with his long professional career and numerous hard-fought wars, has led some to question if Holloway is starting to decline despite his young age. While Allen acknowledges that could be the case, he isn’t counting on it.
“He’s only human,” Allen said. “The damage has got to catch up to you. He’s not much older than me, but he’s been in crazy fights for a long time against top-tier athletes. He’s given a lot of damage, but he always takes as much as he gives as well. But it’s hard to say, really. He’s there to be hit, he takes a lot of damage, but Volkanovski is Volkanovski. He’s looked better every time he fights, he steps up a level every time he fights… So I’m preparing for the best version. I’m training for the best.”
Allen is undefeated in the UFC, with a 9-0 record in the promotion and three “Performance of the Night” bonuses. But he’s struggled to build momentum toward a title shot as injuries and bad luck have repeatedly set him back.
Those ongoing concerns may still limited him as his recent lack of consistency makes him not the safest bet as a potential champion.
“It’s not been brought up to me, but I’m sure that’s a thing,” Allen said when asked if this Holloway fight was a chance to prove that he can fight multiple times a year. “They don’t want a champion that’s always MIA because he’s injured or on holiday. I’m never on holiday [laughs], but for sure. Definitely.
“Obviously I want that. I’ve always wanted that, and I’ve said before in other interviews, it’s not always my fault that fights fall through. Actually, more often than not I’ve had people pull out and events not happen or whatever. Silly things. But it’s usually not my fault [laughs].”
Injuries nearly reared their head again for this matchup, as the UFC originally wanted Allen to compete on the upcoming UFC 286 card in London, however, “Almighty” was unavailable as he was still working through some minor issues.
Now, fully recovered, Allen is just grateful not to be on the outside looking in.
“I was definitely worried,” Allen said. “You can’t so no to good opportunities too many times and get them again. So you could say I’m ‘Blessed’ to get the opportunity again [laughs].”
UFC Kansas City takes place at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo.