“Is there anyone else?” After decimating Brian Ortega at UFC 231, featherweight champion Max “Blessed” Holloway beckoned the world to send him its best. On Saturday, April 13, Max Holloway will face, what by earth’s standards is its “hardest naturally occurring substance,” in Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier.
Max Holloway Wants to Fight Everyone
Not only will Holloway face off against a top contender in the lightweight division, but he will also move up from 145 to challenge for the interim championship. Holloway’s true willingness to summon all comers is why the MMA community is privileged to hold a seat on the “Blessed Express.”
UFC 236 in Atlanta, GA will serve as the proving ground for Holloway to demonstrate that he is indeed capable of beating anybody at any weight. “I can beat anybody in any weight; 155, 170, 185, 205, heavyweight; I don’t give a damn. I’ll fight anybody at any weight, and I’ll beat ‘em.”
What makes Holloway so special, and places him a cut above much of the UFC roster, is his plainness, not in the octagon of course, but on the mic. Holloway speaks unsentimentally about his current and future abilities. He knows he’s the best, and he’ll tell you as much in one breath, followed by a witty quip in the next.
“You Should Rethink Your Life”
After beating former featherweight champion Jose Aldo for the second time, Holloway soberly cautioned all repeat offenders to think twice before signing a bout agreement with him. “If I beat you one time, the second time is gonna be worse, and then the third time you should rethink your life about accepting the fight.” Then he sweetly continued with “just joking.”
But it’s hard to tell how much of Holloway’s declarations are truly jokes or warnings. When he speaks seriously about fighting, Holloway wears an almost expressionless face. His large eyes rarely blink. And when he reaches that sweet spot, where his mind and his mouth unite in total agreement, his upper lip will curve, forming an all-knowing smirk.
Before his first fight with Jose Aldo, a unification bout for the featherweight strap, Holloway was asked how he feels about Conor McGregor being out of the picture. Tired of talking about a champion he respected, but who was no longer relevant to his division, Holloway responded with bemusement. “You gotta play to be the champ, and he’s not playing.”
The Soul Taker
In the octagon, neither is Holloway. “Max the soul taker,” is Holloway’s own description of himself. “When you’re in there, you can feel a man’s soul leave his body, and that’s one of the best feelings in the world.”
That’s real. Holloway doesn’t mince words. But he also possesses a softer, endearing side that could compel a baby to relinquish its own candy. The infamous “no turn unstoned” is a great example of Holloway’s inadvertent charm offensive.
Talking to Luke Thomas of Sirius XM’s Fight Nation last week, Holloway issued a new quotable. Remembering his UFC debut, which was actually against Poirier, Holloway recalled feeling nervous, and hoping he wouldn’t “faint when Bruce Buffer announced my name.” “I was feeling kneak in the wees.” He bashfully corrects himself and continues blasting Thomas with energy and affirmation.
That’s the beautiful thing about Holloway, he’s supremely positive, even when he’s being deadly serious. No matter the topic, Holloway is just honest and humble.
The Brains Behind Max Holloway
In his UFC 231 post-fight interview, when asked about his five years of unparalleled success, Holloway immediately shines the light on his “great coaches.” “Those four guys… they put it on the line for me all the time. I’m just a guy doing it, but they’re the brains putting it behind me.”
Asked by Thomas if he would stay at 145 after UFC 236 Holloway nobly replies, “we see.”
And that’s how Holloway seems to feel about most conversations regarding the future – we see. Only a man with supreme confidence can approach the unknown with such calm.
What he does know for sure is that he’s the best, and as he often boasts, “the best is blessed.”
The man who cleaned out the 145 division, and is now challenging for the 155 interim belt, is indeed blessed, but more significantly, so are we.
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