Hawaiian star Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway may be carrying UFC interim championship gold, but he plans on upgrading that belt for the undisputed title on Saturday night when he takes on current champion, and all-time great, Jose Aldo.
Live on BT Sport, Holloway will have to do things the hard way, heading into enemy territory in Rio and fighting in front of one of the most partisan, intimidating crowds in the sport.
Against Aldo, the man considered one of the world’s top pound-for-pound fighters, Holloway is considered the underdog. But that is a role that suits the Hawaiian just fine after starting his fighting career as a high school kid in Waianae.
“I’ve been the underdog my whole life,” Holloway told BT Sport in an exclusive interview.
“I don’t care. Actions speak louder than words, and I’ve been doing a lot of actions.”
In his second year at high school Holloway was persuaded by a friend to join a kickboxing class and he hasn’t looked back since.
He later discovered MMA and turned pro as a teenager, winning his first four pro bouts in Honolulu before his 20th birthday.
Then came a belated birthday present - a contract to fight on the biggest stage in the world, the UFC.
Back then he would run to his gym, nearly seven miles from his family home, to train in a garage and sharpen his skills. Holloway still trains in Hawaii to this day, and he explained how that humble background has kept him grounded as he’s worked his way up the UFC ladder.
“I knew at a young age to just accept the fact that people don’t owe you anything,” he said.
“If you want anything, go out there, work hard and go get it. Don’t think anybody owes you anything. Once you start taking that mindset, ‘I’m owed something,’ you’re in the wrong mindset.
“Being the underdog is just me wanting to work at everything. I don’t want to say anything is given to me, this and that. I wanted to work my ass off. My papa instilled that from a young age.”
Back in 2013 Holloway battled all the way to the scorecards with another hot prospect by the name of Conor McGregor. The Irishman won that bout and has gone on to become the biggest star in the sport. But Holloway says he’s heading in the right direction, even though he hasn’t received the same promotional push.
“I’m young, I’m 25 too and just because I don’t have a comb-over or some nice shoes, a nice pair of shades, they’re not pushing me,” he said.
“But it is what it is though. Everything comes in due time and my time is coming. You guys are gonna see.”
We’re already seeing it. Since that decision loss to McGregor, Holloway hasn’t missed a beat, winning all 10 of his bouts since, finishing seven of them inside the distance.
His most recent outing, against Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis, saw Holloway stop the former UFC lightweight champion to capture the interim featherweight title. When he returned home he was greeted with a rapturous reception as locals lined the streets to greet their hero.
Now he’s in possession of the interim belt, Holloway plans on taking things to a new level by defeating one of the sport’s all-time greats, capturing undisputed gold and building a legacy as one of the best ever.
“I just can’t wait to do the damn thing, get in there and fight one of the greatest of all time,” he declared.
“He’s one of the greats in our sport, but it’s time for a new era.”
Watch Max Holloway challenge Jose Aldo for the undisputed UFC featherweight title at UFC 212 in Rio on Saturday night, live on BT Sport 2. The prelims kick off at 1am, with the main card starting at 3am.