The BMF Title origin story and why Gaethje vs. Holloway is UFC 300’s x-factor

Aaron Bronsteter sits down with Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje, as the veteran fighter looks to become the first ever to knock out Max Holloway in their UFC 300 bout dubbed by many as “the People’s Main Event.”

“I wasn’t the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me.” – Oliver Reed as Proximo in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000)

Even though Justin Gaethje vs. Max Holloway is situated smack dab in the middle of the UFC 300 main card, it will serve as the unofficial people’s main event on Saturday night.

And although the belt that’ll be on the line isn’t a traditional championship and won’t signify the winning fighter being the best in a particular weight class, the special five-round featured contest will see the organization’s infamous “BMF Title” at stake once again.

Gaethje and Holloway are both among the most revered fighters in mixed martial arts and have been two of the most consistent bang-for-your-buck performers since making their respective UFC debuts.

“There’s no doubt this is going to be the best fight of the night,” Gaethje recently told Sportsnet.

Now, if you are confused as to what B.M.F. means and what the BMF Title represents, here is a lookback at its genesis and why Gaethje and Holloway are the perfect duo to participate in the next chapter.


It all began with two things that go together like peas and carrots, or a right cross-left hook combination: that’s a Nate Diaz post-victory speech and some light cursing.

Back at UFC 241 in August of 2019, Diaz made his return to the Octagon for the first time since his two blockbuster fights with Conor McGregor in 2016 – the first he won via submission, the rematch he lost via majority decision. Diaz earned a three-round decision win over former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis that night and explained why he had been inactive for three years.

“The reason I was off is because everybody sucked and there was nobody to fight,” he told Joe Rogan before calling out Jorge Masvidal who was coming off back-to-back highlight knockout wins over Ben Askren and Darren Till and had gained additional clout by punching Leon Edwards backstage at an event in England all in 2019.

Part of the reason Diaz picked Masvidal specifically was because of the style matchup it offered. Both preferred boxing-heavy game plans and he figured Masvidal wouldn’t hold him against the cage and stall like some of his previous opponents had during his UFC tenure.

“I’m the best martial artist in the world,” Diaz proclaimed at the UFC 241 post-fight press conference. “I’m not like these hold-onto-you wrestlers who are gonna hold you and hopefully win a round and find a loophole to winning these fights and putting belts on their waists.”

At that point in his career, all but one of his UFC losses had been via decision and several of them had seen Diaz’s offence stifled due to his opponents frequently turning to wrestling techniques.

“Now we’re fighting for the ‘Baddest Mother(expletive) in the game’ belt and that’s mine (and) I’d like to defend it against Jorge Masvidal.”

As Mike Goldberg would say… Just. Like. That. The BMF Title was conceived. Diaz dubbed himself the inaugural BMF and the UFC pounced at the opportunity to market a new gimmicky belt and capitalize on the fan interest the callout of Masvidal generated.

They met in the main event of UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden with Masvidal winning by technical knockout after three rounds when the cageside physician ended the fight due to a deep laceration above one of Diaz’s eyes. It was an ironic and less-than-ideal way for the first BMF meeting to conclude, however Masvidal had been dominating the fight prior to the doctor’s stoppage so the victory was earned and not all too controversial.

The additional star power Masvidal gained from his win over Diaz helped him earn back-to-back welterweight title shots against then-champion Kamaru Usman. Masvidal followed those losses, one by decision and one by knockout, with decision losses to Colby Covington and Gilbert Burns before he ended his MMA career without defending the BMF belt.

The BMF Title has only been up for grabs once since Masvidal initially won it and that was this past July at UFC 291.

The UFC pitted Gaethje and Dustin Poirier together for a rematch more than five years in the making. Those two were a perfect pair to reignite the “BMF division” if we can call it that and Gaethje avenged a 2018 loss to Poirier by knocking him out with a head kick.

The UFC took a while to settle on Alex Pereira vs. Jamahal Hill as the primary title fight featured on Saturday’s anticipated card. That headliner should be terrific for however long as it lasts, plus the strawweight title is on the line in the co-main event, but this BMF matchup could’ve just as easily served as the final bout of the evening given the circumstances leading up to UFC 300 and the matchup’s potent potential for entertainment value.

Gaethje vs. Holloway is just the third official BMF Title bout and it’ll mark the first time a fighter has attempted to defend the symbolic championship.


Simply put, neither fighter seems capable of putting on a boring fight.

Essentially, the BMF titleholder and any fighter deemed worthy enough to compete for it, displays a certain type of mindset not all who step into the Octagon possess. A willingness to go out on one’s shield. Athletes equipped with elite skill sets who enjoy, or even prefer, getting into an old-fashioned brawl. They rarely if ever play it safe, even when ahead on the scorecards. Fighters who’d be dissatisfied using superior technique to cruise to a victory that left the fans wanting more. These kinds of fighters don’t run out the clock, they run up the score and do it with a hardened pizzazz.

They don’t merely win fights. They win the crowd’s approval.

Gaethje vs. Holloway offers a tantalizing style matchup for fight fans that, if it lives up to its high-octane potential, could take pole position in the 2024 Fight of the Year race.

Gaethje, 35, made his UFC debut in July 2017 and already has 12 fight night awards in his 12 appearances (seven Fight of the Night, five Performance of the Night). His dozen performance bonuses are the fifth-most all-time in the UFC lightweight division.

His battles over the years with Poirier, Michael Johnson, Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza, Tony Ferguson, Michael Chandler and others added to his legend. Win or lose, this meeting with Holloway should do the same.

“I think there’s a very good chance we’re both going to take some damage,” Gaethje told Aaron Bronsteter. “Hopefully neither of us take chronic damage; we’re going to be trying to inflict that on each other. I love this game because anything can happen at any moment. I plan for a war. I prepare for a war, and if I knock him out in the second round like I did Poirier and I surprise myself then there’s no better feeling. It can’t be matched.”

Gaethje has only gone the distance twice in his UFC career. His patented celebration after sending his opponents to the shadow realm is to climb to the top of the cage and do a backflip onto the canvas. The cherry on top of a violent sundae.

His 7.35 significant strikes landed per minute is the best among lightweights and his 60.3 per cent striking accuracy is behind only reigning lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, plus he can take a wicked shot and in recent years has greatly improved his defensive acumen.

Meanwhile, Holloway is only 32 but already has 28 fights in the UFC since 2012. The former featherweight champion has six Fight of the Night awards like Gaethje plus five performance bonuses.

We’ve seen Holloway literally plant his feet in the centre of the Octagon, bite down on his gumshield and start swinging haymakers for the final 10 seconds of a fight he had in the bag. Why? Because he has a rarified brand of fighting spirit greatly admired by both the toughest athletes in combat sports and fans alike.

[brightcove videoID=6350323266112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

In addition to being the winningest featherweight of all time, Holloway holds multiple records including most total and significant strikes landed in UFC history regardless of weight class and is willing to take on all comers.

He accepted a fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov up a weight class on less than a week’s notice in 2018 during the chaos leading up to UFC 223. That fight didn’t come to fruition after the New York Commission intervened, but it showed Holloway was truly willing to walk the walk.

The following year, while still ruling over the 145-pound division, he moved up to challenge Dustin Poirier for an interim lightweight belt at UFC 236. He fell short on the scorecards but proved his mettle and teased he could hang with the top 155-pounders.

“He’s a beast, bro,” Holloway said of Gaethje. “He’s a future Hall of Famer and I just can’t wait. Like I’ve said, I want to fight the best guys in the world. I want to keep making my name and solidify myself as one of the greatest in the sport and this is the way you do it.”


The UFC had WWE superstar The Rock present the custom BMF belt to Masvidal after he defeated Diaz in 2019.

Masvidal draped the belt over Gaethje’s shoulder after he felled Poirier last summer.

Both Holloway and Gaethje recently suggested Mark Coleman, the inaugural UFC heavyweight champion, be the person to hand the winner the belt after the 59-year-old recently made headlines by saving his parents from a house fire after being hospitalized.

UFC 300 will be full of many memorable moments and that would certainly end up being one of them if it ends up happening. The UFC will be flying Coleman out to Las Vegas to be a guest at the fights.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.