As the youngest fighter currently signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) roster, a lot of people look up to featherweight Max Holloway as an example of what's possible if you follow your dreams.
In Feb. 2012, Holloway, 21, made his Octagon debut on short notice against top-10 ranked Dustin Poirier as just an undefeated 20-year-old with only four professional mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts under his belt.
To this day, that fight with Poirier is the lone defeat on Holloway's resume and he has since gone a three-fight win-streak to prove to everyone that, despite his age and an underwhelming showing in his UFC debut, he is not out of his depth facing the top competition in the world.
Holloway has developed in front of the eyes of the UFC audience over the past 15 months, picking up his most notable win to date last December when he stepped in to face and defeat the gritty Leonard Garcia on just 10 days notice.
The native of Hawaii is improving with each passing bout and at UFC 160 on Saturday night (May 25, 2013); Holloway will cross paths with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 runner-up Dennis Bermudez on the preliminary portion of the fight card from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Aside from Poirier, one could make the argument that Bermudez is Holloway's stiffest challenge to date. That excites Holloway, though, and just days before the match up the Gracie Technics trained fighter spoke with MMAmania.com about the road to UFC 160, fighting Bermudez, being the youngest fighter on the UFC roster, family and more.
Max Holloway: I didn't do as good as I wanted to, it was a close decision and I don't really like split decisions. I either want to dominate or finish a guy and what I took away from that fight is don't take anyone for granted, you know? I knew Leonard was going to be game - I knew he was going to be super game for the fight, but I didn't count on his cardio being that good and I also learned that I should do a little more cardio stuff if I'm going to take fights on short notice.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): You've fought a few times in the UFC on short notice. What do you notice that's different in your game either mentally or physically when you have a full camp to prepare opposed to stepping in on short notice?
Max Holloway: The first fight short notice, four weeks is really not that short of a notice. Four weeks you actually have three weeks to train for something, I think that that's kind of good enough, but that 10 days man - it's not like the UFC was holding a gun to my head telling me to take the fight or whatever, I asked for the fight, I wanted the fight and it's a learning experience. I got the W and that's all that matters.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): You fight Dennis Bermudez at UFC 160 on Saturday. Where would you rank him in terms of all the guys you've competed against so far?
Max Holloway: He's just a high-end guy, you know? For sure and he's on a three-win streak coming off The Ultimate Fighter finale when he fought Diego Brandao, so I think he's the highest ranking guy I've fought. I think he's ranked right under the top-10 guys in the world.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): He proved in his last fight that he's able to take a tremendous amount of punishment and continue to push forward. He's never been knocked out. What do you think about that quality?
Max Holloway: He took a lot of punishment in his last fight and it is what it is, I'm not Matt Grice. I feel like if I can catch him and get him hurt, I feel like I can finish the fight. But if I can't catch him I'm willing to go the three rounds with him. It's no biggie, I just - it's not a problem going the whole three rounds or even trying to go for a finish. It is what it is and I've just got to go step by step and see what happens come May 25th.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): I wanted to talk a little bit more about your striking. According to FightMetric which tracks UFC stats, you're in the top-10 all-time for featherweight striking accuracy and are tied for the most knockdowns in UFC featherweight history with three. What about your stand up skills makes you so successful in your opinion?
Max Holloway: I'm a kickboxer and that's just what I am. I'm not going to go out there and try to outwrestle a wrestler. I'm not going to go out there and try to out jiu-jitsu a jiu-jitsu guy. I feel great with what I'm doing standing and as long as it's working for me why change it, right? That old saying, "Why fix something if it's not broken?" I'm going to try and keep using my striking and keep my fights standing.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): You're the youngest active fighter on the UFC roster and this is your fifth UFC fight. What's it been like to kind of grow up on this stage against the highest level of competition in the world?
Max Holloway: It's kind of been not real yet, you know what I mean? I still can't get that I'm here, I'm doing what I love. I'm taking it one step at a time and I feel so blessed to be here, to be with what you said, the best guys in the world and the toughest guys are in the UFC, so I feel so blessed to be with the UFC and to be the youngest guy, it's simply a blessing.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): What do you do in your downtime for this camp? I saw you post a Vine video yesterday just hanging out at home with your family and son. Is that what you spend most of your time doing outside of training?
Max Holloway: Yeah my wife and my son, I love spending time with them because we're training and stuff, fight camp I kind of disappear for a little bit. So I love spending time with them, we go to the beach, we go to this thing to do indoor racing, indoor trampoline place. We just like getting out of the house and hanging out, or even if it's at home just watching a move, watching TV together. Taking my son outside the house and push him around in his little plastic cart - I just like to take my mind off of training when I'm not training so I'm not thinking of the fight 24/7.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): Do you feel a lot of added pressure given your age and the fact you have to provide for a child and all the other responsibilities that go along with that?
Max Holloway: Yeah, for sure. Every fight I go in there and always on my mind is my family, and you just want to take care of them. There's a little added pressure, but my wife doesn't put too much pressure on me and she's really, really supportive so I just it one fight at a time and just fight my heart out in there. That's all the UFC wants to see.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): I appreciate the time. Last question before I let you go. Where do you think a win over Dennis Bermudez puts you in the featherweight division? It would be your fourth-straight win which is one of the longest streaks in the division. Does that earn you top-10 guy, top-five?
Max Holloway: With a win over Dennis Bermudez, I'd love to fight a top-10 guy, but I don't know where UFC wants to take my career because I'm so young and stuff, so if I can get a top-10 guy that would be awesome, but it's also be nice to get a maybe top 15, top 20 guy that would also be good. I just want to climb the ladder. I want to start fighting more advanced guys to really see what my game is and really know how much potential I have and just keep fighting the best and keep climbing the ladder. Everybody's goal is not a secret in the UFC. They want the UFC gold so that's what I want to go after.
Mr. Holloway would like to thank his family, friends, training partners, coaches and sponsors for their support in his upcoming UFC 160 fight. Be sure to follow Holloway on Twitter @BlessedMMA.