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Max Holloway: Young Warrior, Old Soul

"This is the life I chose; this life didn’t fall in my lap." - Max Holloway

Look at his birth certificate and you’ll see that Max Holloway was born on December 4, 1991, which makes the promising UFC featherweight just 22 years old. Speak to him about family and fighting and you’d swear you’re talking to a man nearly twice his age.

There is a maturity to the emerging prospect with the angel’s wings adorning his back that is uncommon in many people his age – a mindset and approach forged by his upbringing and solidified by his family that gives him a veteran’s outlook on the ebbs and flows of a career crafted inside the confines of the UFC Octagon.

“My grandma and my papa kept my head straight growing up,” Holloway, who faces off with Akira Corassani in the co-main event of this weekend’s return to Sweden, says. “Family to me is everything. I’ve got a loving wife. I’ve got a little blessing, my son, and I’m no longer fighting for myself. Every time I go in there, I carry those two on my back and I’ve got to put food on the table. When I’m in there, the guy across from me is trying to stop me from feeding my family.

“I go to the gym six days a week and train my butt off. I kill myself to the point where I know that there is no way anyone is working harder than me. I know I have to perform great and provide for my family, so I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.

“This is the life I chose; this life didn’t fall in my lap,” he adds with conviction. “I had a kid when I was young. I love being a husband and I love being a father. I wouldn’t trade my life for any other life in the world.

“A lot of people when they talk to me tell me that I’m more mature than my age. I look at things very different from any other 22-, 23-year-old. I knew what I wanted to do in my life and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.”

His resume paints an impressive picture of his voracious pursuit of his goals: a short notice UFC debut against Dustin Poirier just two months after his 20th birthday and a split decision victory over veteran Leonard Garcia a year later, followed by tough fights against Top 10-ranked featherweights Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor and a run of three consecutive finishes to begin his 2014 campaign.

As much as his six UFC wins to date have showcased his smooth and varied striking skills and established him as one of the top young talents in the 145-pound ranks, it’s the way Holloway looks at his losses to Poirier, Bermudez and McGregor that shows his mental approach is just as advanced as his striking.

“(Those fights) had a huge impact on my career,” the 10-3 rising star admits. “All three fights we headlined the prelims, so they were huge fights for me. When I fought Poirier, it was the last fight on FX. Bermudez was the last fight on FX. McGregor had a ton of hype and was just in a huge spot. Yeah I lost, but it’s only a loss if you didn’t learn anything and I learned a lot from all three fights. The proof is in the pudding.

“I lost to Poirier and I went on a three-fight winning streak. I split against Bermudez and that loss against McGregor, we went back into training camp and now I’m on a three-fight win streak with three finishes. They’re all learning experiences.”

The most recent of those three consecutive finishes came at UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. dos Anjos in Tulsa, Oklahoma against Clay Collard in what is quickly becoming a patented Max Holloway performance.

While Collard dropped his hands and looked to score a knockout with every shot, Holloway answered with the same Diaz Brothers-inspired high volume, combination-heavy approach that has become his calling card. The resilient Collard hung tough for two-and-a-half rounds, taking the best Holloway had to offer and continuing to call him in, and the Hawaiian was happy to oblige, chipping away shot after shot before rocking the Pit Elevated product late in the third and securing the TKO finish.

“I enjoyed it,” he says of the fight with Collard and his opponent’s hands down approach. “I enjoy those kinds of people. It was a Fight of the Night-type of fight. I was hitting him with my hardest shots and he wasn’t falling down. When that happens, a lot of people will mentally break like, `Ah man – what do I do? This guy isn’t going down with my hardest shot.’ My mind is different. If I land my hardest shot, I’m like, `Aw man – get ready for a long night, buddy! I’m going to be here all day, dishing it out.’

“We didn’t get our 50k that we wanted, but it was a fun night.”

Now, just six weeks later, the young technician with the old soul is jumping back into the fray on short notice, making the extended voyage to Stockholm, Sweden to share the cage with Corassani on his home turf, eager to secure another finish and ready to chase another bonus check.

“(This fight has) Fight of the Night written all over it. He comes to fight, I come to fight and it’s going to be a great night. I hope Sweden is ready.”

After he gets finished in Sweden, he’s open for whatever the UFC has planned, though he wouldn’t mind getting reacquainted with Poirier, Bermudez or McGregor at some point, though he knows it’s a bit of a long shot at this point.

And he’s okay with that since he plans on sticking around the top tier of the featherweight division for quite some time.

“It would be a good rematch with any of the three of them; I think we could headline a card,” suggests Holloway. “It’d be fun to get any rematch, but UFC doesn’t really do any rematches unless it’s for the belt or huge fights, so I’m just going to stay in my lane, continue to do whatever I need to do to climb that ladder.

“If I get any of those three rematches, I’d love it. If not, it is what it is. I know one day I’m going to get it – I’m only 22 and those guys are all young too. We’re going to see each other again one day soon enough.”

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