On the Monday after the biggest win of his UFC career, 23-year-old Max Holloway was still feeling good about his UFC on FOX 15 performance against Cub Swanson. Feeling good, that is, but not feeling like it wasn’t destined to happened.
From his home in Waianae, Hawaii, Holloway was a guest on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. He said that though he and his camp game-planned to beat Swanson up on the feet, he had a premonition that he would submit the longtime MMA veteran.
"I just felt confident with my tools -- I said, it’s the confidence you need," he told Ariel Helwani. "If you’re not confident in this sport you’re not going to get very, very far. It was crazy -- I had a dream about that finish. I had a dream I was going to submit Cub with a guillotine. I told my jiu-jitsu coach, I said I had a dream that I’m going to sub Cub by guillotine. I called him, and he said, ‘I don’t know man, just stick to the game plan and go punch people in the face – do what Max Holloway does best and if it happens it happens.’"
Holloway dominated Swanson for most of the first before sinking the guillotine late in the third round. With the victory, he has now won six in a row in the featherweight division since losing to Conor McGregor back in August 2013. Though he didn’t specifically call anybody out after stopping Swanson, Holloway did say he wanted to avenge his career losses.
And on the MMA Hour, though he insisted he didn’t care who he stood across from next, the loss he’d most like to get back is the one against McGregor. In that fight, the Irishman suffered a torn ACL late in the second round en-route to a unanimous decision victory. Holloway is the only fighter to go the distance with McGregor in five UFC fights.
"I’ll fight whoever," Holloway said. "[But] I’d love to get that McGregor fight. Everybody was like, ‘oh, McGregor beat you with an ACL,’ that he destroyed me this and that. I was like cool, you know, because not a lot of people knew I was injured [too]. I came out with it, people were like, ‘oh you know he’s making an excuse now, he comes out two years later’…and that’s because I didn’t want to cry about it. I’m not that person. But it just gets to a point where these guys keep saying, ‘you got annihilated, the guy had a blown ACL, blah blah,’ and it’s frustrating.
Asked what the nature of the injury was, Holloway elaborated.
"I got a high ankle sprain in the first 30 seconds of that fight," he said. "I kicked him in his knee and then I kicked him in his elbow right in the first 30 seconds, and I just could not move. I tell everyone, go watch any Max Holloway fight -- when do I ever move straight back? Go tell me. Go point out any fight. If you watch my fights you know that wasn’t me.
"A lot of people were like, ‘that was the best you,’ this and that and the other stuff, but McGregor got hurt at the end of the second round. He got hurt on the ground. So I was thinking, that’s my point exactly. Those guys say he’s going to knock me out the next time -- he had two rounds to knock me out before he got injured. So where was it? I don’t see it."
With McGregor lined up to fight for the 145-pound belt in July against longtime champion Jose Aldo, that Holloway-McGregor rematch is unlikely to happen next. Still, Holloway made a big statement by dominating Swanson on national broadcast television, which boosted his stock in the rankings.
Not that Holloway says he pays attention to the rankings.
"Yeah, you know I don’t care too much about the rankings. I don’t believe too much into them," he said. "You see guys fighting non-ranked guys getting ranked, guys winning against non-ranked guys and moving up. It’s ridiculous.
"And at the end of the day I’m a firm believer that we’re all in second place. They should just put two beside everybody’s name, you know? Because there’s only No. 1 guy out there, and that’s the champion. If you don’t have the gold belt around your waist, you’re in second place right now. I don’t care where anybody put me. It’s great, it was awesome, I was happy because I was moving up because of the fighter pay with this Reebok thing, but I guess they just came out with the stuff saying that they changed it."