In his short, but notable pro wrestling career, MJF has butted heads with some of the biggest personalities in the industry. It should come as no surprise that he’s willing to take a dig at the stars of the UFC as well.
MJF (a.k.a. “Maxwell Jacob Friedman”) is currently tearing it up as a major player in the insurgent All Elite Wrestling promotion, an alternative to the WWE that has already proven to be a ratings draw for TNT and generated massive buzz in just under two years of operation. Currently, MJF is involved in one of the promotion’s most prominent story lines as a new member of The Inner Circle faction that also includes unbeaten Bellator heavyweight Jake Hager.
Since rising up through the independent wrestling scene, MJF has stood apart by making the most of his mic time and AEW has trusted him to verbally build several headlining angles. MJF, 24, believes his promo skills stack up favorably against that of infamous UFC fighters Conor McGregor and Colby Covington.
“I think it’s cute in comparison to me,” MJF said on the What the Heck show. “It’s laughable, but I think they’re great in the world of MMA. If either of those two guys came into the world of AEW, they would be in a lot of trouble. They’d get absolutely verbally bent over, if you know what I mean.
“For what they do, I really enjoy what Conor McGregor did in the UFC. Colby Covington, somebody who understands how to get a reaction out of a crowd, whether positive or negative. Yeah, I enjoy what both of them did. But could they spar with me? Absolutely not. That would not be good. I don’t think that would be good for anybody, honestly. It would be uncomfortable.”
If MJF sounds confident taking shots at a name like McGregor, an established box office draw who has broken pay-per-view records, it’s because he subscribes to the notion that many top UFC fighters take their cues from having watched pro wrestling. In the past two decades, MMA has seen its fair share of colorful characters, and many have found a formula for success by turning their personas up to 11 and becoming must-see television, for better or worse.
These are all tactics wrestling fans have seen before and MJF wants to see credit given where it’s due.
“The word I’d use is ‘stealing,’” MJF said. “That is exactly what MMA has done and they’ve done it very well, don’t get me wrong. I believe Bellator, UFC, and all of these companies should be very proud of themselves, PRIDE back in the day. I genuinely love what they’re doing but at the same time I feel that’s what AEW’s doing. I believe that when we’re doing it right, we’re presenting professional wrestling as sport.
“Even though sometimes when we are on screen I like to have a little bit of fun. I like to do whatever the f*ck I want if I’m being completely blunt because I can. But at the end of the day when it’s go time, it’s sport-based professional wrestling and that’s because professional wrestling is a sport and it’s meant to be a sport. I might be singing and dancing one week, but the next week if I want to I can bite somebody’s nose off and absolutely break them in half in the wrestling ring.”
Though MJF has never participated in professional competitive combat sports, he comes from a background in athletics prior to wrestling that includes boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, two disciplines that he pushed aside in favor of a short-lived collegiate football career. It was in 2015 that he decided to shift his focus to another athletic pursuit, professional wrestling, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Looking ahead, he’d certainly consider getting into pro fighting, but not until he’s accomplished everything he’s set out to do in pro wrestling.
“In the words of one of my favorite movies of all-time, I most certainly could have been a contender, but the reality of the matter is I knew what I wanted to be and that was a pro wrestler,” MJF said. “But yeah, I was a very good boxer at a young age, so I’ve always followed MMA, I’ve always found it very interesting.
“I always thought it might be something I want to dip my toe into later on and if I’m gonna do it I can assure you I’m not gonna lose because that’s honestly very embarrassing and it’s not something I ever plan on doing ever in any sport. But as of right now my mind, my heart, my soul is completely focused in and honed in on the sport of professional wrestling and I intend on becoming, honestly, the greatest world champion in the history of that great sport. But is MMA something I’m interested in? Absolutely. Is it something I watch? Absolutely, I enjoy it very much.”