Max Holloway isn’t one to panic. If someone yelled, “Fire!” in a crowded theater, Holloway is the kind of guy who’d calmly gather his things and exit the building in an orderly fashion.
He didn’t panic when he fell behind early on the scorecards against Dustin Poirier in April in a bid to add the interim lightweight championship to his trophy case. Holloway, 27, took an early beating, made his adjustments and turned the match into a compelling battle that he nearly pulled out.
His ability to relax and think while under pressure separates him from the vast majority of his peers, even those who are older with far more experience. And it’s why, despite the unusual role of being a defending champion coming off of a heartbreaking loss, it will be the same old upbeat Max who takes the cage on Saturday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, to defend his featherweight belt against the legendary Frankie Edgar in the main event of UFC 240.
“Each fight, I approach it like I’m 0-0,” Holloway said. “What happened before doesn’t really matter on what is going to happen in this one. Whatever happened, happened. I stay in the now, and all that matters is what I do when I’m in that cage on any given night.”
Holloway has matured into one of the UFC’s best fighters. He’s ranked sixth on the pound-for-pound list and looks as if he’ll only get better. He’s dreamed of adding a second title belt to his trophy case, which is why he took the fight with Poirier in April during champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s suspension.
Poirier’s size and strength advantages were apparent in the fight, but Holloway nonetheless found a way to make it a memorable battle. At featherweight, he looks close to invincible and had reeled off 13 wins in a row before the Fight of the Night loss to Poirier.
Holloway’s carved out a spot for himself as one of the sport’s most compelling personalities. He brings his young son, Rush, with him and allows Rush to soak in the limelight at public events such as open workouts.
In fighting Edgar, Max Holloway’s facing not only one of the sport’s most respected veterans, but a legitimate threat to his title. Edgar, a former lightweight champion, has been at or near the top of whatever division he’s been in for the last 12 years.
Edgar is 0-4 in title fights since his last championship victory, a fourth-round knockout of Gray Maynard in defense of his lightweight title on Oct. 8, 2011, at UFC 136.
Edgar is 23-6-1 in MMA, and Holloway has been asked repeatedly about Edgar’s title fight losses. He’s not having any of it, though.
“People keep telling me, ‘Oh, he has six losses, did you know that?’ ” Holloway said. “I know how many losses he has because I’ve probably been told 500 times. But look at who he has fought and look at who he has beaten. I don’t care how many losses he has, because I know he’s one of the best fighters in the world and he’s a dangerous guy.
“My mindset is to be the best of all time, and so I don’t care about anything but going in there and performing to my best. He’s a legend in this sport and I’ve prepared for that kind of opponent. To me, you have to have a championship mindset, and I have had that even before I had a belt. I’ll be honest: Belt, no belt, title fight, no title fight, it don’t matter, man. All that matters is getting that victory.”
There is little chance that Holloway will look past Edgar to bouts down the road against opponents such as Alex Volkanovski, Zabit Magomedsharipov or even a rematch with Brian Ortega.
He has a veteran’s mind in a young man’s body, which is the best combination a fighter could hope to have.
He’s young enough to eventually put himself into the all-time greatest conversation, one that now is owned by light heavyweight champion Jon Jones as well as Demetrious Johnson and Georges St-Pierre.
He’s gotten there by pushing himself to his limits, improving each time out and never looking any further down the line than the next date on his calendar.
“This is one of those legacy-building type of fights, if you ask me,” Holloway said of his match with Edgar. “He’s one of the best to do it. He always is ready and he always brings it. You build your legacy by winning these kinds of fights. I know if I beat Frankie Edgar, years from now people are going to say, ‘Man, what a big win that was.’ It adds to my legacy and puts more shine on my name. Those are the kinds of fights that get me excited.”
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