HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Crowds of mixed martial arts fans from across the state gathered at Honolulu airport Monday to welcome newly-crowned UFC champion Max Holloway back home to Hawaii.
Hundreds of supporters – including almost the entire University of Hawaii football team – greeted Holloway and fellow UFC212 victor Yancy Medeiros at the baggage claim area at around 1:30 p.m., screaming "yeah!" and "chee-hoo!" as they arrived and showering them with lei.
In an impressive upset victory Saturday, Holloway knocked out Jose Aldo to win the UFC's undisputed featherweight championship.
"This is bigger than the dream, actually," said Holloway. "People dream of this. To see it, and see my son, and for my son get to witness this, and my family and my friends... It's just great man. It's just great. I can't put it into words."
Holloway's championship win – his 11th straight victory – unified the UFC's featherweight division. Holloway was the interim title holder, while Aldo was handed the division's belt after Conor McGregor vacated his own featherweight title.
The 25-year-old fighter entered Saturday's bout as an underdog, but a four-punch combination floored Aldo several minutes into the third round.
The feeling of winning a championship, though, was nothing compared to the surge of emotions he felt when he saw the crowd that had gathered to welcome him back to Honolulu.
"I can't put it into words. I can't explain it," said Holloway. "Winning a belt is cool, but coming home to this... This belt is whatever compared to this kind of (reception)."
With Holloway's return, and Medeiros' victory, comes renewed hope that the pair will soon be able to help lure a marquee UFC event to Hawaii.
They'd even be OK with having the event in Waianae.
"If (UFC organizers) are scared of the rain or whatever, we've got Aloha Stadium, but we also got the Waianae High School Football field," said Holloway. "We just put a tent over the damn cage and you can watch the sunset, watch the sun come down and fight in the cage. It'll be super cool.
"And it won't rain over there, I promise," he added.
While the fighters themselves have been steadfast in trying to bring the UFC to the islands, tourism officials in Hawaii told Hawaii News Now on Monday that they've had no official conversations with the company about staging an event in Hawaii.