Wie withdraws from US Women’s Open

The Maui News

Michelle Wie, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion, announced on her instagram feed Friday that she has withdrawn from the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open slated for next week.

Wie, 29, a Punahou School graduate, cited her ongoing recovery from wrist surgery as the reason for the withdrawal.

“While I’m making progress with my recovery, I have decided to withdraw from the U.S. Women’s Open,” Wie wrote. “It was a difficult decision to make because the U.S. Open was one that I was looking forward to playing in all year, but my recovery and health is the priority. Thanks so much for all the messages of support — they really keep my spirits up. I am hopeful that I’ll be seeing you all back out on Tour very soon!”

Wong, Ozuna, Carpenter homer to help Cardinals split doubleheder with Royals


The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — Marcell Ozuna made Homer Bailey work. Then he made him pay.

Ozuna, Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong went deep as part of a four-homer barrage, and the St. Louis Cardinals split a doubleheader with the Kansas City Royals by winning the second game 10-3 on Wednesday.

Brad Keller threw seven-plus innings of two-hit ball to snap a six-start winless streak and Jorge Soler hit a three-run homer as the Royals beat the Cardinals 8-2 in the first game.

Severe storms around St. Louis forced Tuesday’s game to be postponed and created the day-night twinbill.

Ozuna capped a 12-pitch at-bat by blasting a three-run homer off Bailey over the right field wall to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead in the first. Carpenter set the tone against Bailey, who threw 42 pitches in the inning, with a nine-pitch walk.

“Just be ready and working hard and right now try not to do too much,” Ozuna said. “I’m just trying to put the ball in play and make contact because that last two series I’ve struck out a lot.”

Ozuna also doubled, walked and scored twice. He drove in the Cardinals’ only runs in the first game, giving him five RBIs on the day.

“It’s more of a momentum game than maybe people realize,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We kept it going, finished out, which says something about the group. Finished out the first game, kept playing. And that’s a good sign when you keep playing the game when it’s not going your way. Good things will happen. Ozuna picked right up.”

Dexter Fowler also homered as St. Louis had as many home runs in the second game as it did hits in the opener.

Getting the early lead was a jolt of positive energy for the Cardinals, who had lost 10 of their last 12 games entering the second game.

“After we lost that game before, we got an early shot and we put some (runs) on the board,” Ozuna said. “That’s pretty impressive.”

Adam Wainwright (4-4) battled through control issues with 55 of his 103 pitches going for strikes. In five innings, he allowed three runs, six hits, walked four and struck out two.

John Gant, Andrew Miller, Carlos MartÌnez and John Brebbia combined for four scoreless innings of relief.

Carpenter’s two-run homer in the second inning landed in the right field bullpen. Fowler added a solo homer in the sixth as part of a three-hit night and Hilo’s Wong hit a three-run homer to cap a four-run seventh.

Bailey (4-5) threw 66 pitches, but lasted just 1 2/3 innings and gave up five runs. The right-hander has allowed 10 earned runs in his last two starts (six innings) and he hasn’t beaten St. Louis since 2014 (eight starts).

“They kept fouling pitches off, fouling pitches off,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Ozuna I think had a 12-pitch at-bat. In that (first) inning I thought his stuff was pretty good, but the pitch count jumped up so quick, 42 pitches in the first inning. It just jumped up to the 65 mark after five outs. Just a lot of pitches.”

Hunter Dozier’s 10th home run of the year off of Wainwright in the fifth inning travelled 420 feet. Adalberto Mondesi had a pair of hits, scored and drove in a run.

‘Let it ride’

Mariota heads into final season of rookie deal with Titans without extension


The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Going into the final year of his rookie contract, Marcus Mariota hasn’t changed anything about how he prepares for this season.

That includes no talk of holding out or public demands for a new contract. The Titans quarterback and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner prefers to show up and work hard during the voluntary offseason program to be the best he can be.

“Let it ride,” Mariota said Tuesday. “I mean no matter what still I get to come out here. I get to play a game that I love and I’m going to make the most of it.”

Mariota’s injury history is the reason why the Titans have yet to sign the quarterback to an extension after picking up his option for 2019 at $20.9 million. The Saint Louis School graduate has missed at least one game a season and eight combined through his first four years, and he is coming off a season where he threw for a career-worst 11 touchdowns with eight interceptions.

A revolving cast of coaches hasn’t helped.

Coach Mike Vrabel is Mariota’s third head coach since being drafted No. 2 overall in 2015, and Arthur Smith is his fourth offensive coordinator and fifth play-caller. Vrabel promoted Smith from coaching tight ends to make the transition as smooth as possible — the only offensive change after coordinator Matt LaFleur was hired as Green Bay’s new head coach.

“I hope that there’s a lot of carry-over,” Vrabel said of his offense.

Both Mariota and the Titans have plenty of room for improvement on offense. Thanks to a dominant December by Derrick Henry running the ball, Tennessee ranked seventh in that category in 2018. They ranked 29th in passing offense, managing a mere 189.5 yards per game after losing Mariota’s top target — three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker — in the opener.

Mariota threw for more than 300 yards only once — in an overtime win over Philadelphia — and the Titans had three games where they didn’t reach 100 yards passing. Mariota missed three starts, including the regular-season finale when a victory would’ve earned a second straight playoff berth.

The Titans upgraded Mariota’s backup, trading for Ryan Tannehill in March. They also signed wide receiver Adam Humphries and new left guard Rodger Saffold to improve the offensive line while drafting another receiver in A.J. Brown to give both Mariota and the offense a boost.

“I feel like as a team we’ve made some good choices, and hopefully they can bring something dynamic to the offense,” Walker said.

Mariota wouldn’t bite when asked how little he needs Tannehill to play this season.

“No matter what, I know he’ll be prepared if it comes to that and he’ll make the most of his opportunity,” Mariota said.

The Titans made clear when they traded for Tannehill that Mariota remains their starter, though that hasn’t stopped speculation that Tannehill was brought in to push Mariota.

“His job is not in jeopardy,” Vrabel said of Mariota.

The quarterback and Smith know each other well having spent the past four seasons together through all the different schemes. Mariota said Smith also makes it easy for players to talk to him about what they like and don’t like.

Mariota, who sat out the final game last season because of nerve issues affecting his throwing arm, looked fine on the second day of the Titans’ organized team activities in the final phase of the offseason program. Mariota threw short, mid-range and long passes.

The quarterback said he wishes those health issues hadn’t happened, especially at the end of the season. He’s working to be healthier, having gained a few extra pounds to help. But he’s not going to worry about the concerns others have about his durability.

“Other people’s opinions don’t matter to me,” Mariota said. “I just got to be the best I can be for this team.”

Bucks rout Raptors for 2-0 lead

Antetokounmpo has 30 points, 17 rebounds as Milwaukee moves within two wins of NBA Finals


The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo started the game with an emphatic dunk. The next possession, a sprawling block to deny Marc Gasol. The next possession, another dunk.

The tone was set.

And it never changed.

The Eastern Conference doesn’t belong to Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks — yet. But they’re two wins away, after Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 17 rebounds, Ersan Ilyasova came off the bench to add 17 points and the Bucks never trailed on the way to a 125-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Friday and a 2-0 lead in the East finals.

“He plays so hard, he lays it all on the line, every time,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It was a great start for us. I think everybody fed off of Giannis and how he started the game.”

How he finished, too.

Antetokounmpo scored 11 points in the fourth for the Bucks, who wound up with six players in double figures — three of them reserves. Nikola Mirotic scored 15, Malcolm Brogdon had 14, George Hill 13 and Khris Middleton 12.

“We really rely on each other … especially the bench,” Ilyasova said. “The starting five set the tone.”

Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points for Toronto, which gave up the game’s first nine points, never led and trailed by double digits for the final 39 minutes. Kyle Lowry scored 15 and Norman Powell had 14 for the Raptors.

“We didn’t do much well tonight, obviously,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.

Game 3 is Sunday in Toronto.

“We get to go back home and protect our home court, like they did these last two games,” Lowry said. “We’ve got a chance to go home, protect home court and do what we’re supposed to do.”

Milwaukee, an NBA-best 60-22 during the regular season, became the 16th team to start a postseason with at least 10 victories in its first 11 games. Only three teams — the 1989 Los Angeles Lakers, the 2001 Lakers and the 2017 Golden State Warriors — opened the playoffs 11-0.
The Bucks led by as many as 28, before Toronto did just enough chipping away to keep some semblance of hope.
Eventually, Antetokounmpo decided enough was enough.
With 5:51 left to play Antetokounmpo backed Leonard down on the block, spun back toward the center of the lane, scored while getting hit and starting a three-point play. He yelled to the crowd and punched the air. The knockout blow was landed, and the Bucks are two wins from their first NBA Finals berth in 45 years.
“At times, I forget that I have to stay aggressive,” Antetokounmpo said.
Not in that moment, he didn’t.
“Give them credit,” Raptors forward Pascal Siakam said. “They came with a lot of intensity.”
Leonard 10-18 10-10 31, Siakam 4-9 0-0 8, M.Gasol 1-9 0-0 2, Lowry 4-13 5-8 15, Green 2-6 2-2 8, Powell 6-9 0-0 14, Miller 0-0 2-2 2, Boucher 2-3 0-1 5, Ibaka 4-9 0-2 8, Moreland 0-0 0-0 0, VanVleet 2-5 0-0 5, Lin 0-1 0-0 0, Meeks 2-5 0-0 5. Totals 37-87 19-25 103.
Mirotic 5-10 3-4 15, Antetokounmpo 10-20 9-12 30, Lopez 1-7 4-5 6, Bledsoe 3-10 1-2 8, Middleton 5-8 0-0 12, Ilyasova 7-11 1-2 17, Wilson 0-2 2-2 2, Frazier 0-0 0-0 0, Hill 5-8 2-2 13, Connaughton 1-3 1-2 3, Snell 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 1-3 2-2 5, Brogdon 5-10 1-2 14. Totals 43-92 26-35 125.
Toronto 21 18 39 25 — 103
Milwaukee 35 29 31 30 — 125
3-Point Goals—Toronto 10-32 (Powell 2-4, Green 2-4, Lowry 2-9, VanVleet 1-1, Boucher 1-2, Meeks 1-2, Leonard 1-4, Ibaka 0-2, Siakam 0-2, M.Gasol 0-2), Milwaukee 13-41 (Brogdon 3-6, Middleton 2-3, Ilyasova 2-5, Mirotic 2-7, Brown 1-2, Hill 1-3, Antetokounmpo 1-4, Bledsoe 1-5, Connaughton 0-2, Lopez 0-4). Fouled Out—Siakam. Rebounds—Toronto 40 (Ibaka 10), Milwaukee 53 (Antetokounmpo 17). Assists—Toronto 19 (Lowry 4), Milwaukee 27 (Bledsoe 7). Total Fouls—Toronto 30, Milwaukee 26. A—17,570 (17,500).



All times HST


Friday’s Result

Milwaukee 125, Toronto 103, Milwaukee leads series 2-0

Today’s Game

Golden State at Portland, 3 p.m. (ESPN), Golden State leads series 2-0

Sunday’s Game

Milwaukee at Toronto, 1 p.m. (TNT)

Ostovich’s husband gets four years of probation for assaulting Oahu UFC fighter


The Associated Press

HONOLULU — An Oahu mixed martial arts fighter who pleaded no contest to a charge of assaulting his wife, UFC fighter Rachael Ostovich Berdon, has been sentenced to four years of probation.

A judge sentenced Arnold Berdon on Thursday after hearing from Ostovich Berdon, who said, “I do have the power to move forward, walking in forgiveness and I have.”

Deputy Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rawson had asked for five years in prison.

Ostovich Berdon filed for a temporary restraining order in November, alleging her husband punched her in the head, face and ribs. He hit her after a night out with family and she fell to the ground, gasped for air and escaped through a balcony, according to her petition for an order of protection. She said she coughed up blood and threw up several times.

“This wasn’t a single act, it wasn’t a single punch. This was a sustained brutal assault,” Rawson said, adding that a portion of it was recorded by a bystander. “For nearly 10 minutes, the defendant assaulted the victim while she begged for him to stop.”

After jumping over the balcony, Ostovich Berdon ran to her sister-in-law’s house, Rawson said.

It wasn’t the first incident of domestic violence, Rawson said.

Berdon listened to the audio the bystander recorded and was “deeply troubled by what he heard,” said his defense attorney, Myles Breiner. Berdon loves his wife, Breiner said.

“Granted, they both had been drinking that night, but it doesn’t change the fact that although both of them are professional mixed martial arts fighters and intoxicated, the fact that it rose to the level that his wife had to jump off the balcony … to run for safety, still troubles Arnold,” Breiner said. “He thinks about it all the time.”

Breiner noted that Ostovich Berdon didn’t ask for any additional jail time.

Police initially arrested Berdon on a charge of second-degree attempted murder. Prosecutors later charged him with second-degree assault.

“You really hurt your wife, you hurt your family,” said Judge Trish Morikawa.

The judge gave him credit for two days he spent in jail and said Berdon doesn’t need additional time behind bars to be motivated to do the right thing.

After pleading no contest to assault in March, Berdon said he wanted to spare his family from a legal battle.

The couple’s divorce decree was filed Wednesday, with full custody of the couple’s 6-year-old daughter going to Ostovich Berdon, Breiner said. Berdon will have supervised visits with his daughter and will ask for reconsideration of custody after completing anger management and domestic violence intervention classes, Breiner said.

“I thank my wife for being strong for my daughter,” Berdon said.

Former UH football coach Tomey dies at 80

The Maui News and The Associated Press

Former University of Hawaii head football coach Dick Tomey has died at the age of 80.

Tomey, who was also the winningest football coach in University of Arizona history, died surrounded by family Friday night in Tucson, his family said. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in December.

Tomey, who compiled a 63-46-3 record with the Rainbow Warriors from 1977-86, led UH to the school’s first ranking in The Associated Press poll, in 1981.

He spent one season as special teams coordinator at UH in 2011. He is a member of the school’s Sports Circle of Honor.

“On the football field he was a tough as nails coach, who loved fierce competition and the thrill of team building,” the Tomey family said in a statement Saturday. “He loved his players, every single one of them — always.

“He was hard on them. He constantly raised the bar. He could do that because he knew how to find the goodness and the talent in people. If he didn’t find it immediately, he kept looking until he did, and once he found goodness/talent he never lost sight of it.”

The family statement began, “To us, Dick Tomey was one of a kind. Known for his room-for-everyone big-heartedness, generous spiritedness (to a fault), instinctive kindness, love and respect for people of all walks, and the ease with which he forgave himself and others and moved on with life without resentments-taught all of us so much. Dick Tomey was never petty, never small minded. He was a man who discovered his mission in life, embraced it, enjoyed it, and accomplished amazing things. When speaking of football, he often said, ‘Football is not complicated. People are.’ He was always, first and foremost, a people person.”

During his tenure, Tomey led the Rainbow Warriors into the Western Athletic Conference in 1979. In just his second season, he nearly led UH to an upset of eventual national champion USC in the 1978 regular-season finale.

Tomey guided the Rainbow Warriors to a pair of runner-up finishes in the WAC and four seven-win-plus seasons.

According to the UH athletics website, Tomey was instrumental in scheduling big-name opponents, the likes of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Iowa, Michigan and South Carolina.

His 1981 squad finished the year with a 9-2 record and runner-up WAC finish. He also coached UH’s only Associated Press first-team All-American in Al Noga in 1986, his final year as Hawaii head coach.

After his head-coaching years began at UH, Tomey spent 14 years at Arizona, going 95-64 while taking the Wildcats to seven bowl games, including the Fiesta Bowl in 1993. Arizona went 12-1 in 1998 under Tomey and beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl to finish a program-best No. 4 in the AP poll.

The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame tweeted: “A true pioneer in giving Polynesian kids an opportunity to further their education through football, Coach DICK TOMEY served as Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee Chairman and recognized as a Founders Award honoree. We will miss you Coach. Aloha.”

The Arizona football Twitter feed said of Tomey: “A man of integrity and passion who impacted the lives of so many. He always put others before himself. Coach Tomey’s legacy goes far beyond the football field.”

Na Koa Football Club tweeted: “Coach not only coached our Rainbow Warriors, he continued to support the program in many ways. We will be forever grateful to Coach for making Na Koa Football Club the recipient of proceeds from several of his book signings.”

Tomey closed his career as a head coach at San Jose State before retiring in 2009 at 71. Tomey was 183-145-7 overall in 20 years as a coach.

Born in Indiana, Tomey graduated from DePauw University and got his first varsity job coaching defensive backs at Davidson in 1965 after stints coaching freshmen teams at Miami of Ohio and Northern Illinois.

Tomey spent four seasons at Kansas before following Pepper Rodgers to UCLA. He was the Bruins defensive coordinator in 1976 before being named Hawaii’s coach in 1977.

North Carolina coach Mack Brown said on Twitter that college football lost a “true legend.”

“I’ve never met a more passionate, loving man, who was also one of the best coaches to ever coach,” he said.

In 2009, Tomey was named the president of the 10,000-plus member American Football Coaches Association. More than 35 of his coaching protegees were either in the National Football League or coaching at the NCAA FBS level. Rich Ellerson (Army), Pat Hill (Fresno State), June Jones (SMU), Ron McBride (Weber State), Tom Williams (Yale) and Dino Babers (Syracuse) were head coaches at FBS programs.

Tomey is survived by his wife, Nanci; a son, Rich, and daughter Angie.

The family said a celebration of life will be announced later.

Ursua drafted by Seahawks in seventh round

The Maui News

University of Hawaii slotback John Ursua was selected in the seventh round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, going 236th overall to the Seattle Seahawks.

Ursua, a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award and finalist for Polynesian Player of the Year in 2018, was the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns with 16. He was fifth in receiving yards at 1,343. He went over 100 yards in seven of 13 games played for the 8-5 Rainbow Warriors.

Ursua joined UH teammate Jahlani Tavai among the draft selections. Tavai was selected in the second round by the Detroit Lions on Friday.

UH had two players selected in the same draft after going the past seven years with only two draft picks total. Ursua is the 12th Hawaii wide receiver ever picked in the draft and just the fifth since 1993.

Ursua is the 72nd player in UH history to be selected in the NFL Draft. He is the third Rainbow Warrior taken by the Seahawks, joining Wayne Hunter (2003 third round) and M.L. Johnson (1987 ninth round).

In his three-year career with the Rainbow Warriors, Ursua had 189 career catches and 24 receiving touchdowns while helping to lead UH to a pair of bowl appearances.

UH’s Tavai drafted by Lions in second round

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jahlani Tavai is going from Rainbow Warrior green to Honolulu blue.

The University of Hawaii linebacker was selected by the Detroit Lions in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday.

Tavai was taken with the No. 43rd overall pick, tying him with linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (2003, St. Louis Rams) as the third-highest draft pick ever from UH, behind only wide receiver Ashley Lelie (19th overall, Denver Broncos, 2002) and defensive end Travis LaBoy (42nd, Tennessee Titans, 2004). He is also the first Rainbow Warrior to be drafted since fullback Joey Iosefa was a seventh-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015.

The 6-foot-4, 245-pound inside linebacker from Inglewood, Calif., racked up 391 tackles in his career at UH, good for second-most in program history. He was a three-time all-Mountain West selection.

Tavai averaged 10.2 tackles a game, but a shoulder injury cut his 2018 season short, and he played in only eight games.

“Shoulder’s doing great,” Tavai said on a teleconference Friday night. “I’m just getting excited to be able to get into pads again.”

During Day 2 of the draft, the biggest news was a trade as the Arizona Cardinals shipped quarterback Josh Rosen to the Miami Dolphins.

Rosen, supplanted by overall No. 1 pick Kyler Murray, had a rocky rookie season. Last year’s 10th overall pick finished 33rd in the NFL in passing rating, throwing for 2,278 yards and 11 touchdowns with 14 interceptions, and the Cardinals finished last in points and yards while going 3-13.

Rosen will contend with well-traveled veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed in March after the Dolphins traded Ryan Tannehill to Tennessee.

For Rosen, the Cardinals acquired from Miami a second-round choice — No. 62 overall — which they used to draft Massachusetts receiver Andy Isabella. Miami also gave the Cardinals a fifth-round pick in 2020.

Holloway loses to Poirier in bid for second belt


The Associated Press

ATLANTA — Dustin Poirier bloodied Max Holloway and won a unanimous decision for the UFC interim lightweight title on Saturday night, denying Holloway his chance to become only the fourth fighter to hold two belts at the same time.

Holloway, the UFC featherweight champion from Waianae, Oahu, moved up to the 155-pound class for the first time, attempting to gain the second belt. He also was trying to avenge his loss to Poirier in his first UFC fight in 2012.

Holloway had Poirier in trouble in the third round but couldn’t overcome Poirier’s relentless barrage of punches.

Holloway was bleeding heavily by the fourth round. There was so much blood on his face in the fifth and final round that it appeared he had difficulty seeing at times as he wiped his eyes.

Each judge scored the fight 49-46 for Poirier (17-4).

“This feels great,” Poirier said. “I feel like I’m in a dream right now.”

Holloway (20-4) had his streak of 17 consecutive wins end. He hasn’t ruled out a return to the featherweight class.

“I’m not going to take nothing from Dustin,” Holloway said in the octagon, looking at Poirier. “You beat a world champ and you’re a world champ.”

In the other headline fight of UFC 236, Israel Adesanya earned the interim middleweight title with his domination of Kelvin Gastelum in the fifth round.

Poirier’s possible reward for his win is a chance to face undefeated Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The retirement of Conor McGregor, who was the sport’s most popular fighter, leaves a void in UFC. McGregor held featherweight and lightweight titles but hasn’t won a fight since November 2016.

Nurmagomedov said this month he would like to fight again in September, two months after the end of his Nevada State Athletic Commission ban for his team’s brawl with McGregor’s team following their fight in October.

“Right now I’m the champ,” Poirier said, adding he hoped Nurmagomedov could return for a unifying fight that would remove the interim tag on his title.

“We’ve got a belt to fight for,” Poirier said.

Poirier’s hope was shared by UFC president Dana White. When asked about a possible unification bout following Poirier’s win, White said “Yes, that’s the fight.”

For now, the interim title is worth celebrating for Poirier. Fans chanted for Holloway at times, but Poirier also had his share of fans.

“It’s cool to prove it in front of all these people, but I had to prove it to myself,” Poirier said. “This means everything to me.”

Holloway moving up for chance to win second belt at UFC 236


The Associated Press

ATLANTA — Max Holloway believes the path to recognition as the best pound-for-pound fighter in UFC goes through the lightweight division.

That means a move up in weight class. Holloway says he will let his featherweight championship belt “bake a little bit longer” so he can face Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title tonight in UFC 236.

The possible reward for the winner will be a date with undefeated Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The retirement of Conor McGregor, who was the sport’s most popular fighter, leaves a void in UFC. McGregor held featherweight and lightweight titles but hasn’t won a fight since November 2016.

Nurmagomedov said this month he would like to fight again in September, two months after the end of his Nevada State Athletic Commission ban for his team’s brawl with McGregor’s team following their fight in October.

Holloway (20-3) has won 17 consecutive fights since losing to McGregor in 2013. He knows he must extend that winning streak to claim more of the UFC spotlight.

“To me, the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world should represent dominance, and that’s where I want to go,” Holloway said Thursday. “After the fight I want people to say ‘What or who or where is this kid from?’ ”

Holloway, 27, from Waianae, Oahu, is attempting to become the fourth fighter to hold two UFC belts at the same time. He said he’s not worried about the move up to the 155-pound class.

“A lot of the guys that are considered pound-for-pound fighters in the world, a bunch of them are in 55,” Holloway said. “I feel great and I feel like I fit in here. This is what you’ve got to do. If this is where I’ve got to be, that’s cool.”

Besides, moving up in weight class meant eating more cupcakes for the fighter nicknamed “Blessed.”

“That’s easy work,” said Holloway with a smile. “Cupcakes are too easy. I’m Hawaiian Samoan.”

The Holloway-Poirier matchup is one of two title fights in UFC’s return to Atlanta. Kelvin Gastelum (15-3) will fight Israel Adesanya (16-0) of New Zealand for the middleweight interim title.

Holloway made his UFC debut with a first-round loss to Poirier in 2012. Both say the first fight is ancient history and no indicator of what to expect tonight.

Poirier, of Lafayette, La., said he was shocked when recently shown the video of the 2012 fight with Holloway.

“I was just thinking, look at these kids and me as a kid and how far I’ve come, making things happen for myself,” Poirier said.

Poirier (24-5) remembers the young Holloway was unpolished.

“His striking was definitely aggressive and high-paced,” Poirier said. “The takedown was easier than other opponents I’ve fought, but he’s tightened up those holes. Seven years is a long time to get better.”

Poirier said he’s also improved since the 2012 fight.

“You don’t stay on this level by not evolving, by not getting better,” Poirier said. “You fade away if you don’t. So we both just evolved and got better and got smarter and got more experienced and here we are in the championship fight, seven years later.”

Holloway was more direct when comparing his current skills with the young fighter who lost to Poirier.

“Max today would bloody that 20-year-old kid who walked into the octagon,” he said.