It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2017. Throughout the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
It was a crazy year for the sport of MMA in 2017. Several champions fell, including some that many thought would be dominant for a very long time. A lot of the fighters lost their undefeated records as well.
When it came to the “Male Fighter of the Year,” the final shortlist included three men: Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, Max Holloway and Robert Whittaker. Undoubtedly, these three fighters had the best year in 2017, each accomplishing an incredible feat of their own. Johnson managed to break the all-time title-defense record with his win over Ray Borg. Holloway came away with two title-fight wins over the greatest featherweight of all time. Whittaker took out two of the most feared men in the middleweight division to become the undisputed champion by the end of the year.
All three fighters make amazing cases for this category, but ultimately the winner was the 26-year-old Hawaiian champion who, simply put, had an unforgettable year.
Holloway became the interim UFC featherweight champion in December 2016. His first fight of 2017 was against José Aldo, the greatest featherweight to grace the Octagon. The contest was intended to unify the titles. While Holloway was certainly not afraid of Aldo and his accolades, the Hawaiian was still regarded as the underdog going into the fight. However, Holloway clearly wasn’t fazed by the atmosphere in enemy territory. He finished Aldo and became the undisputed champ.
Holloway was not done making history, though. When a title defense against Frankie Edgar fell through, Holloway got a chance to defeat Aldo for a second time. Holloway couldn’t care less who his opponent was, even going so far as to post a somewhat unique response to the opponent change by saying, “It is what it is.” That response simply proved to be confidence, as Holloway defeated Aldo once again by the same method — third-round TKO.
This may be just the start of the “Blessed Era,” but there aren’t many better starts to one’s championship career than defeating a legend twice. It was certainly enough to crown Holloway as the Combat Press “Male Fighter of the Year.”
Other finalists: Robert Whittaker, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2017 MMA Award winners.