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Bobby Maximus explains why he’s making The Ultimate Fighter run at age 43: ‘You need to do this now’

The Ultimate Fighter: Team Pena v Team Nunes
Bobby Maximus
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Bobby Maximus is a name that jumps right off the page, but it’s his unlikely story that has made him one of the most talked-about competitors on The Ultimate Fighter 30.

A quick glance at the TUF 30 roster will tell you it’s a cast with little experience as all but one of the competitors has less than 10 pro bouts to their name, including Maximus (5-4). However, the Canadian’s profile is definitively not like the others:

  • Maximus last competed in February 2009, over 13 years ago
  • Maximus was a cast member on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter — then better known as Rob “Maximus” MacDonald — where he was coached by then-welterweight champion Matt Hughes and shared a house with the likes of UFC notables Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Joe Stevenson, Josh Burkman, Melvin Guillard, Marcus Davis, and Seth Petruzelli
  • Maximus has already fought three times in the UFC, winning once via a first-round armbar submission of Kris Rotharmel
  • Maximus is 43 years old

It’s that last fact that has understandably raised the eyebrows of those keeping track of the latest TUF season and ahead of his fight on this week’s episode, Maximus explained to MMA Fighting why he made the decision to go on the long-running reality show and become its oldest-ever competitor.

“I retired from fighting because I didn’t think — I was the primary caretaker — and I didn’t think that I could be a good enough dad and fight,” Maximus said, when asked if regretted making the decision to initially walk away from fighting. “I thought he deserved better as a son. Over the years every time I would watch a UFC event, there was a little voice that would be like, ‘Man, you retired too early. You could still do this. You could have been something. It might have helped you having a son because you were more mature and you could have balanced it.’

“That voice got louder and louder and louder to the point where I had to do something about it and at 43 I’m approaching the point of no return. I won’t be able to do this at 50. It was like, ‘You need to do this now.’ And now that I’ve done it, win or lose or draw, it doesn’t matter. The one thing the show taught me is I would have been, I am, and I will be 100 percent capable of fighting in the UFC. So it put all of those wonders, all of those doubts, all of those what ifs, it put them to bed because I got the answer I was looking for.”

Maximus had to go through the same strenuous vetting process as the other cast members when it came time to audition for the show, though he was under more scrutiny due to his advanced age and long layoff from fighting. While he didn’t stress about his skill or fitness levels — Maximus currently runs a successful personal training business — there were several factors outside of his control. All the miles he’s logged and all the reps he’s drilled meant nothing when it came to MRI results and CAT scans.

He made it through, becoming one of eight heavyweights scheduled to compete on the latest edition of TUF. Maximus lost to TUF 2 finalist Brad Imes in his lone tournament bout that season and as difficult as that experience was, he says returning to the show now was even more daunting.

“It’s hard and I will tell you even though you see some 40-year-olds competing at the highest level in the world, it’s certainly not the norm,” Maximus said. “Most people fall apart when they hit 40. It’s just a fact of life. There are some of us that have been able to hang on a little longer than others and whether that’s genetics, a dedication to fitness, a dedication to diet, a dedication to your craft, there are some of us that have been able to hang on longer. But one thing you can’t escape is that the toll on the body is a lot more when you’re at 43 years old.

“If I was to compare it to when I was on The Ultimate Fighter season two, it’s a lot harder. The training is grueling on The Ultimate Fighter. It’s a lot harder going through that as a 43-year-old then it was as a 26-year-old. It’s just a different world. So you have to be more cognizant of nutrition, more cognizant of sleep, more cognizant of taking care of yourself. It can be done. It just takes a lot of effort.”

The Ultimate Fighter: Team Pena v Team Nunes
Bobby Maximus
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Maximus currently lives and fights out of Utah, but he began his training almost 20 years ago as a pupil of the late, great Shawn Tompkins. The native of Sudbury, Ontario, was regularly tested in the gym by Canadian standouts like Mark Hominick, Sam Stout, and Chris Horodecki.

At the time, Maximus was like every other hungry, young fighter who wanted to be part of the UFC’s explosion in popularity during the 2000s. Looking back now, he doesn’t feel he was mentally prepared to excel inside the octagon.

“It was different for me, personally,” Maximus said. “I was in the place of the younger competitors on season two. On season two, I desperately wanted to be in the UFC. I desperately wanted fighting to be my career. I felt like it was now or never, that this is my golden ticket, this was my shot. This is something I had to do.

“Now I’m 43 years old. I’m one of the most recognized fitness celebrities in the world. I write for Men’s Health. I’ve got a family. I make a fair amount of money. I didn’t need to do this show, I wanted to do this show. So I came at it from a very different mindset. The buzz, the pressure, all that kind of stuff, it was a completely different experience this time around for that reason.”

Maximus recalled checking forums in the early days — this was still in the primitive ages of social media — and being hurt by the criticism of his performances. It’s an aspect of the game he learned to ignore a long time ago.

“I cared way too much about what other people said and what other people thought,” Maximus continued. “Losing a fight was devastating because you weren’t tough, your manhood was questioned, you weren’t a good athlete. The sport has evolved to the point — and I suppose I’ve evolved to the point mentally where I don’t care anymore. Some of the best fighters in the world lose.

“Look at what just happened with Tony Ferguson and Michael Chandler. Tony was on the end of one of the ugliest knockouts of all time and nobody thinks less of him as a fighter. It’s a different game, it’s a different judgment system and so now I don’t really struggle with that anymore.”

On this week’s featured TUF 30 bout, Maximus takes on Team Amanda Nunes’ No. 1 heavyweight pick Eduardo Perez, a fighter 16 years Maximus’ junior who sports a 4-1 pro record. Maximus was the last pick of the show when the teams were drafted and he ended up on Team Julianna Peña.

He has high praise for Peña as a coach and as a person, and says they were on the same page when it came to having him go after Nunes’ top prospect.

“I asked for Eduardo from minute one,” Maximus said. “Part of the reason is I was the last pick, I might as well go after No. 1. If I’m gonna lose, I might as well lose to who they thought was the best. I want to go down swinging. I want to take their top dog out. The reality with the TUF show is that someone’s gotta come out of there. You can’t hide from anybody. You can’t hide from the No. 1 seed or the No. 2 seed or the No. 3 seed. Everyone has to go through the same gauntlet. So my thought was let’s just get this done now. I’m going to take out No. 1 and then away we go.”

We’ll find out tonight if Maximus had a one-and-done journey on the show, but given everything he went through just to get in the house, it’s fair to ask if he intends to fight outside of the UFC should he bow out of the tournament and a contract isn’t offered down the road.

Maximus wouldn’t make a definitive statement on his post-show plans, only assuring that his return to the world of MMA has already been a fulfilling one.

“It was really for two reasons that I did this,” Maximus said. “The first reason I did this is never mind the UFC, never mind ONE Championship, never mind Bellator or any of those things. I just wanted to prove to myself that I can still do this. Now, when I say do this, that’s where the UFC becomes important because the UFC is the highest level professional organization on the planet. So let’s see if I could do this at the highest level in the world. That’s number one.

“Number two: We live in a pretty dark world right now. There’s a lot of sadness, a lot of depression, a lot of misery. And there’s a lot of people out there who hate their jobs. They’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, they’re miserable, they’re unfulfilled. They work for a corporation that frankly doesn’t give a f*** about them. And they probably have a dream or had a dream. Maybe that was to be a journalist. Maybe it was to paint with water colors. Maybe it was to write poetry, I don’t know, whatever you want to do. And they’re scared to go after it. I found myself being that person. Watching TV, every time I’d watch a UFC event, ‘Maybe I can still do this.’ And then the voices start, ‘Don’t do it. You have a great career. You have a great reputation in the media. If you lose, people are going to come after you online. You’ve already had a career. Why are you going to tarnish it?’

“There’s always a reason not to do something, but how am I going to inspire others and teach others to go after their dreams if I’m not willing to do it myself. So none of this for me was really about getting the UFC contract, fighting in the UFC. It was I’m going to go on this thing and be the best I can and let’s see what happens.”

The Ultimate Fighter 30 streams live Monday evenings at midnight ET on ESPN+ in the U.S and on UFC Fight Pass in Canada. Episodes also air on Canadian television at 9:30 p.m. ET Tuesdays on TSN2.