Max Holloway made sure that his ABC debut would not be forgotten.
Not only did “Blessed” put forth one of the most dominant five-round performances of his career against Calvin Kattar at UFC Fight Island 7, he also authored a dramatic moment that was perfect for the UFC’s first-ever broadcast on a network that has hosted some of boxing’s biggest names.
In the final round of Saturday’s main event, Holloway kept up the ridiculous pace that he’d maintained throughout the fight and at one point, shouted to the commentary team that he was the best boxer in the UFC, then turned to shout at Kattar, all while dodging his opponent’s punches.
Holloway’s stardom has risen through the years not only because of his victories and his reign as featherweight champion, but because of the warrior attitude he regularly puts on display. Against Ricardo Lamas at UFC 199, he put an exclamation point on a decision win by pointing to the mat and daring Lamas to stand toe-to-toe with him in the center of the octagon; against Brian Ortega at UFC 231, he appeared to offer Ortega a mid-fight striking defense tutorial even as he was battering him senseless.
Asked where he gets this stuff from, Holloway couldn’t explain it.
“I don’t know,” Holloway said at Saturday’s post-fight presser. “They’re in the moment, just the right place and right time on ABC. Maybe Muhammad Ali put a little bit of spirit in me or something, that was a little bit of Muhammad right there. It was just crazy, I felt in the zone.
“Like I said, you guys be putting that narrative that his boxing was better, [Kattar] was putting out the narrative that he was older and I was a freshman, but like I said, sometimes there’s freshmen, there’s true freshmen, and sometimes there’s freshmen that come up and they take your girlfriend. I’m one of those ones, you don’t want to mess with me I’ll probably take your girlfriend. I’m one of those freshmen.”
Indeed, the more experienced Kattar (the New England native made his pro debut three years before Holloway) put on a spirited effort against Holloway, but the end result of their fight was a lopsided unanimous decision nod for “Blessed.” According to the official stats, Holloway landed a UFC-record 445 significant strikes on Kattar.
The bout was hardly personal, but that doesn’t mean Holloway didn’t gain added motivation from those wondering if his best days were behind him.
“People was calling me out,” Holloway said. “It’s funny, because I was once known as one of the better boxers in MMA and this guy was coming up and he said what he said, he said he was one of the best boxers—Not even him, he didn’t even say it. I think it was more you guys that was saying he was one of the best boxers, so I had a chip on my shoulder and I wanted to prove that Waianae boxing, we kinda different, we a little different from these guys.
“I just saw the UFC post a clip, that was pretty cool. I slipped a couple of punches, I did the no-look right hand, and then I told him, ‘What,’ because he missed all his punches, so I was just having the time of my life. It’s super fun.”
One of Holloway’s secrets and a point of emphasis he made in the lead-up to the fight is that he does not include sparring as a major component of his fight preparation. Though Holloway has been in several back-and-forth battles, that’s something he leaves out of the gym and saves for the octagon.
His reasons for excluding what’s a common practice for most fighters is both for practical and health reasons.
“Like a good legend, [NFL star] Marshawn Lynch said, ‘Save your chickens,’” Holloway said. “Save your chickens. Right here, you only get one brain, save it. You guys don’t need to do it. You sparred enough, you trained enough, you know how to punch someone, you know how to slip a punch, why even take unnecessary damage before the main game? That’s just the way I think and everybody who keeps telling me on my [Facebook Gaming stream], everybody who tell me I should be training? No. I’ve been training, when I play games, leave me alone. I want to play video games.
“Please protect your guys’ head. If I had to tell an up-and-comer, be smart, figure out a way of taking less damage. You want to be in this game for a long time. I want to have more kids, I got Rush, little Rushy Boo Boo, and then I want more kids, so I want to be around for a long time for them.”