The New Baddest Man on the Planet? Max Holloway Thinks He's Earned the Title

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2021

Max Holloway jogs around the ring as he waits for Jose Aldo of Brazil to arrive for their UFC 218 featherweight mixed martial arts bout, early Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Detroit. Holloway defeated Aldo by third-round TKO. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
Jose Juarez/Associated Press

Think you've got an impressive MMA resume?

Go ahead and compare it to Max Holloway's.

The long and lean Hawaiian has been in the UFC for nearly a decade, has won three fights for every loss and has a championship-level pedigree that includes five title-fight victories—in addition to a non-title win by first-round finish over one of the promotion's reigning belt-holders.

So, among guys claiming to be the Octagon's apex predator, it's hard to argue with his credentials.

And somehow, at least for three more weeks, he's still just 29 years old.

His last outing as a 20-something comes Saturday night in Las Vegas, where he'll headline a Fight Night show with Yair Rodriguez in a meeting of the world's first- and third-ranked 145-pound contenders.

It's his first non-pay-per-view appearance in six years, but he told Bleacher Report he's not at all fazed by the lesser stage.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 12: (L-R) Max Holloway punches Alexander Volkanovski of Australia in their UFC featherweight championship fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, U
Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

"It's a big fight every time I get to be on a card, and I'm just grateful to be making that walk and being able to show why I'm one of the baddest men on the planet," said Holloway, who was king of the featherweights from 2017 to 2019 before dropping the belt to Alexander Volkanovski.

"I had five title-fight wins. And I loved every single title fight I ever was actually in.

"This is just another one. Last time I checked I'm still fighting five fives. There's not that belt at the end, but this is like a championship fight."

Speaking of that belt, he and Volkanovski did get together for a rematch at UFC 251 in July, and the Aussie walked away with a split decision, though more than a few of Holloway's colleagues thought he'd done enough to regain his title.

Still, if you're thinking Holloway lays awake at night lamenting curious scorecards, think again.

In fact, there's no guarantee that Volkanosvki will be next on his competitive dance card even if things go as planned with Rodriguez. Among the alternatives, he suggested, were a second date with lightweight champ Charles Oliveira—whom he stopped in 99 seconds in 2015—as well as a follow-up with 2013 foe Conor McGregor or even a dip in the crossover pool to fight a non-MMA rival.

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

"Like I said, I've got five title-fight wins. The sixth title fight win would be great against Alex," Holloway said. "For sure, that's what I want. But at the end of the day, we'll see what happens. UFC discussed a lot of possibilities, actually. I have a win over the 155-pound champ. I'm always on a short list to fight Conor. They got me on that short list.

"Even with these, quote unquote, so-called boxers. I'm the best boxer in the UFC. Use your imagination, my friends. That's all I can say. We live in a wild time. We've seen wild fights being made. Just use your imagination."

He was coy when pressed for specifics, but Holloway has been labeled one of the UFC's biggest weight-cutters and is rumored to walk around at or near 180 pounds before trimming down.

Boxing's reigning pound-for-pound king, Canelo Alvarez, is frequently linked to these sorts of fights and competed last week at 168 pounds. For tale-of-the-tape purposes, Holloway is 16 months younger and three inches taller than Alvarez, who's never weighed-in past 174.5 pounds.

As for social media chatterbox Jake Paul, he's five years younger than Holloway, two inches taller at 6'1" and walks around between fights in the neighborhood of 190 to 200 pounds. Paul is fighting boxer Tommy Fury in December but has previously met ex-UFC fighters Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley.

Holloway, without naming names, said he'd listen if someone called with an out-of-the-box proposal.

"We'll see what happens," he said. "Like I said, use your imagination. We live in wild times. Wild fights are being made. What a time to be alive if you're a fighting fan or if you do this for a living.

"You've got a lot of ways to go."

PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 15:  Yair Rodriguez (top) punches BJ Penn during the UFC Fight Night event at the at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 15, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As for now, it's Rodriguez, a 29-year-old who's been in the UFC since 2014 and lost just one of 10 fights while beating the likes of BJ Penn (TKO 2), Dan Hooker (UD 3) and Alex Caceres (SD 3).

Holloway made the contracted weight of 146 pounds on Friday after another challenging cut and credited his wife and son for not only keeping him healthy but also providing the extra impetus—alongside his wanting to be the best fighter in the world—to get through the most harrowing hours.

"I've got to thank my beautiful wife for helping me through this camp. She cooks all my meals, and she makes sure I'm fed and eating all the right stuff and staying away from all the bad stuff," he said.

"What I've put my son and my wife through, through all the fight weeks and the fights and all the business stuff that I've had to do, all the time that I get taken away from them. That's what gives me the motivation. These two people, my family, they give me the motivation to just be greater, be better and be the best version of myself. That's what gets me through the day."

Even after nine performance bonuses, a record-setting win streak at 145 and a 30-month title reign.

And he's still not close to finished, but he promised he'll know when it's time.

"There's a bunch of records out there that, for sure, I want to break," he said.

"I don't want to be one of these guys where it's past my time and I'm trying to hold onto something. At the end of the day, we just take one step at a time. That's all we're doing. We're just focusing on the now. When we've got to cross that bridge, I'll sit down with my team and say, 'Look, this is what we've got to do, and this is the way we've got to go,' and we'll cross that bridge.

"But, right now, we just focus on the things I can control and the things I can do and set myself up for what's coming ahead in all the fights."

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 12: (L-R) Opponents Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez of Mexico face off during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on November 12, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Chris Unger/Getty Images

Rodriguez weighed-in a half-pound less at 145.5 and presents a varied threat that's allowed him to rack up multiple wins by decisions, knockouts and submissions since turning pro in 2011.

Still, he's not fought since a pre-pandemic decision over Jeremy Stephens in 2019 and hasn't finished an opponent since stopping "Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung with a second left in their 2018 main event.

"I'm not too worried about what he's gonna do," Holloway said. "I respect everything that he's gonna do. I know what he brings to the table. He knows what I bring to the table. So, at the end of the day, let's get it on. Saturday night should be fun, should be fireworks.

"If you're trying to get a family member, a friend or a colleague into mixed martial arts, into the UFC, make sure to tune in. I can make a fan out of them. I'm gonna go out there and fight my heart out. It's just gonna be a great one."