For the first time since the summer of 2016, Hawaii’s Max Holloway will enter the octagon in a non-title fight for the UFC next weekend in Abu Dhabi.
The Waianae native and former featherweight champion will headline the organization’s return to network television on January 16 as he faces division contender Calvin Kattar in the main event of of UFC on ABC 1.
“It’s exciting times especially in this new era coming from the pandemic to this. I think so there’s something going around saying that they’re going to allow fans at this one, so it’s just crazy times right now and I’m excited. I’m excited, I can’t wait,” Holloway told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello on Thursday. “I’ve been telling everybody that here’s your chance. If you know someone that’s trying to get into MMA, kind of doubtful like I don’t want to watch this sport, this and that. Make sure they tune in live. It’s been 20 years since ABC had any type of combat sports. Tell them tune in ne t week Saturday and I’ll do the rest.”
Holloway, enters the bout 21-6 on the heels of back-to-back controversial decision losses to current champion Alexander Volkanovski. Since stopping previously undefeated Brian Ortega via fourth round TKO in December of 2019, Max has lost two of his last three bouts which includes a decision defeat at the hands of Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title in April of 2019.
For many 2020 was a challenging year navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic and although it hasn’t been easy for Holloway, he is very open about his gratitude for success in his personal life that the year brought. From added time with his now nine year old son Rush, getting engaged to fellow Waianae native and pro surfer Alessa Quizon, to building a community of thousands with his online gaming channel.
“It means a lot. In a lot of dark times there’s a lot of light that can happen. With all this stuff, I even messed around and told my fiancé Alessa that I might become a professional surfer. You never know,” Holloway said laughing. “All jokes aside, even gaming, I’m on Facebook gaming and being able to build that has been fun and even to have Rush as part of that. He’s a big part of my gaming community that little shine stealer, I thought he would only steal one thing in fighting, but no, he found a way to steal my shine in other ways, but yeah, it just goes to show that with the bad times good things can happen.”
During the interview, Holloway stayed on that theme of positivity volunteering to offer advice to youth athletes in Hawaii who have been affected by cancellations amid the COVID-19 pandemic where on his home island of O’ahu, both prep leagues, the OIA and ILH announced that it was canceling the fall and winter seasons for the remainder of the academic year.
“I know it’s tough. I know some of you guys needed that senior year to get to the next level and get that scholarship you need. Always remember guys; tough time don’t last, tough times guys do. You are your own author. Now go grab a pen and write your own legacy. Go leave your legacy. You don’t need this or that. Go find a way. If you really want it you’ll find a way to get it done. Do not give up. This is not the end. I know a lot of you know Kamu (Grugier-Hill),” said Holloway of his Tactical Strength and Conditioning teammate who is a linebacker with the Miami Dolphins. “I think Kamu started playing football at eleventhe grade and then he became a super bowl champion. Don’t let this define you. Don’t let this demoralize you. It’s hard. They took something away from you that you worked super hard. Find a different way. I know you can find a different way to keep going.”
Holloway, has always spoken freely about mental health over the years making public a battle with depression in 2018 as he dealt with a number of injuries. Therefore with the happiness he has in his personal life along with how healthy he feels crediting less full-contact sparring ahead of fights and more time in the ocean, Max feels that an argument could be made that he’s the most ready he has ever been in his career.
“I feel great. You don’t have those nagging injuries. You know before I’d come in my ankles hurt, my knees hurt. you got bruises. You don’t even know how you got bruises. It just comes with time. If you look at the NFL. You don’t see those guys go full contact sparring. They only do it for the games now,” said Holloway. “You hit a certain level that you don’t need a certain training. It’s a combat sport you know. You only have one brain. Me and my team are super super big on me being around for mini blessed. So it’s just about being smart. I feel good. I feel great. I feel sharper than ever. Laser focused. I can’t wait man. I’m super excited for upcoming next weekend.”
Kattar, is a rising star in the division, coming off of a victory over another Hawaii native Dan Ige over the summer. His size, skill-set, and style make for an interesting fight against the high-volume and always well conditioned former champ which creates an intriguing matchup for Holloway.
“The things that excite me the most is that he’s a boxer and from Boston. All you hear is how they like to get down. I’m excited. I’m a striker. I’m from Waianae. Waianae is known for boxing. I myself is kind of known for boxing. I can’t wait to go out there prove it and show it. It’s a good ole Waianae boxin vs some type of Boston boxin. We’ll see who prevails.”
Holloway’s hopes for a return to the title start at winning this fight and possibly needing Brian Ortega to defeat Alexander Volkanovski later in the year, but winning aside and what it means to a hopeful return to the division’s throne, Holloway’s mission is simple.
“It’s been a while. It’s been a while (since I got) a finish. So I have to go out there and remind everybody of that 3-3 Max Holloway. It’s going to be fun. I know I said that at the top. I saw someone post the most finishes in the featherweight division so it’s time to run away with that. Make sure it’s a hard record for someone to beat, so that’s the plan.”
Holoway and Kattar will face off on Saturday January 16 at 10:00am HST on ABC. Kahuku’s Punahele Soriano will also be part of the fight card facing fellow undefeated light heavyweight Dusko Todorovic. The preliminary card is scheduled to begin at 7:00am HST on ESPN+.