Over the last two years, the only thing that could slow down Max Holloway has been a jacked up thumb. And even then, the Hawaiian featherweight standout was already plotting his return days before getting the cast removed.
“I heard there are cards early June, late May, so I want to get on one of those cards and we’ll see what happens,” Holloway said backstage at last weekend’s UFC event in Las Vegas, speculating about his return just a few days before doctors would remove the cast protecting his surgically repaired thumb. “Before we put on the cast, (the doctor) said it would probably be a month of rehab, so pretty fast.
“I want to get this taken care of and get right back into the mix. If you don’t fight for too long, people start forgetting who you are.”
Given his track record over the last 25 months, it’s hard to imagine the 24-year-old not getting mentioned when discussions turn to contenders in the deep and compelling 145-pound weight class.
Beginning with a second-round technical knockout win on Jan. 4, 2014, the Waianae, Hawaii product has rattled off eight straight victories – four in 2014 and four more in 2015 – to push his record to 15-3 and climb to No. 4 in the featherweight rankings. After morphing into an intriguing prospect in the division win wins over Will Chope, Andre Fili, Clay Collard and Akira Corassani, Holloway used this past year to prove himself as a bona fide contender.
In February, he accepted a fight with Cub Swanson in the cage seconds after earning a unanimous decision win over Cole Miller. After tapping out “Killer Cub” on FOX, he earned a win over Charles Oliveira in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan when the Brazilian was forced to stop due to an injury. Not content to rest on his laurels and remain on the sidelines, he took a tough fight with Jeremy Stephens at UFC 194 in December, marched into the Octagon and out-worked the “Lil’ Heathen” from start to finish.
“There are four guys in front of me and all four can get it,” Holloway laughed when asked who currently resides on his personal hit list. “I have no preference; I’ll fight whoever. A lot of guys are telling me that I’ve fought nobody yet, so gimme one of those four guys in front of me because I’d love to prove them wrong.”
The notion that Holloway hasn’t faced anyone is preposterous, but his attitude about the whole thing is perfect and highlights why he has been so successful of late.
Where plenty of fighters get caught up in everything else going on around them and worry about making sure they take the right steps to preserve or protect their place in the pecking order, Holloway just wants to get it in and go back home to keep training and spending time with his wife Kaimana and their son, Rush, also known as “Mini-Blessed.”
It’s why there was no pause when presented with the bout against Stephens in December and why he didn’t have much to say when asked about Conor McGregor’s current situation.
“Kudos to him, you know,” Holloway said of McGregor, the reigning featherweight champion and the last man to defeat him. “When I get my gold belt, I’m going to tell Dana, ‘Let me fight for the ’55 belt now.’ We’ll see what he says, but kudos to him. You can’t hate on one man’s success; that’s not cool. He’s doing what he said he was going to do and more respect to him.
“It is what it is and I really don’t care,” he continued. “I’m focusing on myself – focusing on Max Holloway – and all that kind of stuff doesn’t impact my life too much. I’ve got other fights that I need to worry about, so when that fight (a rematch with McGregor) happens, when that fight comes, we can talk about that fight, but right now, we’ll see what happens.
“I just want to focus, get better, become more of a complete mixed martial artist. When I leave this place, when I’m done, I want to be a legend. I want to be remembered as one of the greatest of all-time.”
And while Holloway is working towards establishing himself as an all-time great, it’s the return of a fighter that already carries that distinction that he believes will help expedite the process of making his dream of a UFC event in Hawaii come true.
“The Hawaii campaign is going great,” Holloway laughed, referring to his efforts to get the UFC to bring a show to Aloha Stadium. “I think the event is going to happen this year; I feel super-confident it is going to happen this year.
“Now that BJ is back, I think that helps push that much more too,” he added, referencing the impending return to action of BJ Penn, who retired in July 2014 following a loss to Frankie Edgar, but who is expected to return to the Octagon later this year. “I think it’s going to happen this year, so get your surf boards ready – your board shorts, your slippers, tank tops – and keep talking about #UFCHawaii. Tell Dana and Lorenzo – keep bothering them until they get to the point where they’re just like, ‘I’m sick of it’ and they do it.”
If it does happen, it will be a dream come true for the surging Hawaiian contender and he’s even got a fight in mind.
“Why not do an interim Aldo and Holloway in Hawaii?” suggested Holloway. “That’d be ideal.”