Max Holloway: Hawaiian Punch

Interview: Nick Peet

The interim featherweight champion has two goals for 2017: unify the 145b belts and take the UFC to his home of Hawaii.


 

Q. When are we going to get to see you fight to unify the 145lb belts?

A. Right now I don’t know for sure. I’m waiting on José ‘Waldo’. Where’s Waldo? That guy is running scared. He’s no champion. I said I would fight him in Brooklyn, but then the doctor didn’t clear me to fight. I got a medical suspension so I couldn’t fight in New York. But I ain’t ever dodged a fight in my life. Ask the matchmakers at UFC, ask Sean Shelby. I ain’t ever turned down a fight. I’m ready now. I’ll fight now. Where’s Waldo at?

Q. You sound very confident of defeating José Aldo, why?

A. I respect what he’s done in the sport. He’s a legend of this weight class and one of the greatest of all time, but like so many others, his time is over and his generation has passed. This is my time to dominate the featherweight division. Who else has done what I’ve done? I beat everybody in the top 10, pretty much. I earned this world title belt harder than anybody else in history and I deserve to unify the belts and be the undisputed champion. Waldo can hide, but he can’t hide forever.

Q. Why do all your opponents pay you so little respect before your fights?

A. These guys, they all sleep on me. I think they take one look at me and they think I’m nothing, but they all change their tune once we get in there. I’m a motherf**ker and I can fight. It’s what I do. It’s what Hawaiian people do. We are fighters and I’m representing. Maybe it’s because I’m here in Hawaii doing my thing. I’m not in California or Florida training with a big team and surrounded by media every day. I do my thing out of the way, but that’s just how I like it. I put the work in when it matters. I grind every day so when it’s time to fight I’m the best there is.

Q. How did you feel watching BJ Penn get beat up by Yair Rodriguez?

A. Watching BJ is painful for all of us. He’s so inspiring to everybody in Hawaii. He really blazed a trail for fighters, not just here but all over the world. Watching him lose to Rodriguez was hard but it’s his time. The next generation is here now and even though he is an icon in MMA, the next generation has caught up with him. BJ inspired me but he’s BJ Penn and I’m Max Holloway. I can’t walk in his shoes. I have to make my own path and I not only want to emulate what he achieved, I want to raise the bar further. Then the next generation after me are challenged to raise the bar again.

Q. How highly do you rate Rodriguez and the division’s other new talents like Doo Ho Choi and Mirsad Bektic?

A. There are some good young fighters in the division now for sure, in the top 15, but a lot of them are untested against the top 10 or five guys. I’ve been through pretty much the whole division to get where I am so they now have to do the same. Choi had his chance and came up short against Cub Swanson. Sure it was a good fight, but he lost it so he’s got to go away and improve. Rodriguez caught BJ at the perfect time for him, but BJ is no longer a top guy. Yair has to be someone in the top 10 for me to take any notice of where he’s at. Me and (Bektic) were supposed to fight at one time, but he got injured and I think that’s been something he’s suffered from: injuries. He’s another young guy with talent, but he’s beaten nobody yet. They have to do some work before they get to me and the belt.

Q. What would it be like to have the chance to defend your belt at a UFC in Hawaii?

A. UFC Hawaii would be off the chart man. The people here are crazy for MMA. We are such a cultural society in Hawaii that the tickets would sell out so fast to support our own. To bring the belt back here and defend it in front of my people would be the greatest moment and achievement of my life for sure. Nothing would make me prouder than to walk out in from of an arena full of Hawaiian’s with the belt on my shoulder – then kick someone’s ass!

Q. Would that be the defining moment in your career?

A. I like fighting all over and have been very lucky. Traveling and fighting all over the world is incredible. My favorite is fighting in Las Vegas. We Hawaiians call it the ninth island, so I always get great support there, but it doesn’t compare to what it would be like to have a UFC Hawaii fight card. We’ve seen and heard the atmosphere in Ireland when the UFC go there and people said it was the best atmosphere ever. But UFC Hawaii would be even bigger and louder, believe me.

Q. What’s the MMA scene like in Hawaii in 2017?

A. MMA in Hawaii is so strong right now. I train at Gracie Technics and also at my local community gym near my house. There are some young killers coming through in my hometown gym, for sure.

Q. Have you got a target on your back in the gym back home?

A. Hawaiian people aren’t like that. We don’t try to belittle one another. We only try to grow and improve and we support each other. That’s the culture here. Nobody is looking to put a beating on anybody. We are all just looking to improve and become better fighters. Where I’m from the men are told from a young age that once school is done its construction work, and not much else. So to have fighting as a legit way of providing for your family is inspiring to a lot of young people, myself included. We are working hard every day showing everybody in our community that there are other options in life than what everybody else is doing. That Hawaiian people can achieve anything they put their minds too.

 

*** This Q&A originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Fighters Only magazine ***