Why Max Holloway's best may still be yet to come
- Holloway has matured into one of the most charming and affable guys in the whole of the UFC roster.
Max Holloway has always been an optimist.
“ You shouldn’t ever give up. Like what is that. Like that, if you give up you’re a certified loser. If you try, you at least a winner in your own book.”, these are the words of a sixteen-year-old Max who had just started his career as a mixed martial artist in the small town of Wainae, Hawaii. Now 28 years old with growing responsibility as a superstar in his field of work and a single dad on top of it, Holloway has matured into one of the most charming and affable guys in the whole of the UFC roster.
The self-belief to strive for something great has always been there inside him evident by his willingness to take a fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov in a weight class above him on a short notice of six days. Mind you, Khabib is a generational talent with his fights being one-sided beatdowns (his current record of 28-0 says it all) and mauling of world-class opponents. The fight didn’t happen but it sure displayed the heart of Holloway to be open in facing new challenges and not being intimidated by the size and scale of it.
So the recent loss he suffered on December 14 last year, at UFC 245 by the hands of Alexander Volkanovski won’t bother him too much. For Holloway, such challenges have been a driving factor in his growth as a fighter and a human being. As a young fighter in the UFC, he had to fight off a 3-3 record to build his way up to the interim and then undisputed Featherweight championship. He had to fight off the doubters and naysayers at UFC 231 ( after showing some concussion-like symptom before UFC 226) against Brian Ortega where he was a betting underdog.
The result of the match was one of the finest performances by Holloway inside the octagon as he dominated and decimated Ortega to a doctor’s stoppage/TKO in the fourth round while breaking several records along the way.
But the greater challenges as Holloway himself would attest were the ones he faced early on in life. An addicted mother as well as being born in one of the most opioid affected places in the United States meant that life could have turned out to be so different for “Blessed”. Max explained how he stayed away from drugs in his appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast,
” You know I saw it. I remember being about eight, maybe six, I remember my uncle coming into the bathroom and my mom was showering me and my brother and like just fighting with my mom. Like they are fighting, fist fighting. This was normal. Ice (Meth) was like crazy in Hawaii and I was like holy shit, this is nuts. I see like my friends and family, their parents and even going to high school, my friends doing this and that, I am like guys this is not for me, I ain’t gonna do this shit. I see what it did to my family, how it affected and some of them are people I love like my friends and family, I was like I ain’t gonna do it. That’s why I stayed away, I never did anything, no type of drug, not even Marijuana”.
The will to be great has always been there for Max though, who while graduating high school told everyone he knew that he was going to be a UFC champion. His fearlessness in putting himself out there also got him laughed off by his elder brother who suggested that he find something real in life, like a college.
Years later, Max is one of the greatest Featherweights to have ever stepped inside an octagon with his resume being a who’s who of the division ( Aldo twice, Jeremy Stephens, Frankie Edgar, Cub Swanson, etc.). This ability to fight off adversity and with a smile too is what makes him different from most of the fighters in the roster.
We have seen behemoths and legends of the game cry their hearts out (DC, after his second loss to Jones is still somehow etched in my mind) after disappointments faced inside the octagon. Max's reaction was different, almost stoic at times, answering questions at the post-fight press conference, eating ice cream alongside his son Rush and showing absolute class in the way he handled the loss.
Although MMA math suggests that the winner of the first bout always has a hefty chance of winning the rematch but Max's optimistic attitude and the unstoppable desire to improve constantly is why he may have more than a decent chance of making a comeback. Because as Max has always said," It is what it is".Published 09 Mar 2020, 03:08 IST