What would a win over Jose Aldo mean for Max Holloway's career?

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Max Holloway (R) hasn’t lost a UFC fight in nearly four years, but he’s facing an all-time legend in Jose Aldo. (Getty)
Max Holloway (R) hasn’t lost a UFC fight in nearly four years, but he’s facing an all-time legend in Jose Aldo. (Getty)

Max Holloway knew long before anyone else that he’d be a star one day.

He had this feeling in his gut that he’d be the center of attention, the guy who made it, the idol of many.

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He wasn’t sure exactly in what area he’d be a star, or how he’d get there, but he had a deep belief in himself for as long as he could remember.

“Since I was a little kid, I wanted to stick out like a sore thumb and have people notice me and say, ‘Hey, see that guy, he’s great,’ ” Holloway said. “I really feel like I was born for this. I was meant to be great. I knew I was meant to be great at something. I just stumbled upon it in fighting.”

Holloway is the UFC’s interim featherweight champion, and he’ll face the legendary Jose Aldo on Saturday in the main event of UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the undisputed title.

It’s safe to say that he’s a star now, and that he sticks out like a sore thumb. In a division filled with savages, Holloway sits at the top, with only Aldo in a similar spot.

He’s only 25, but he’s got a belt, has won 10 UFC fights in succession and has a chance to fulfill that lifelong belief that he was destined for greatness. He’s got the fourth-longest active winning streak in the UFC and will tie the great Royce Gracie at 11 for the fifth-longest winning streak in UFC history should he defeat Aldo.

That, and defeating an unquestioned all-time great such as Aldo would qualify as greatness, so it’s a chance to fulfill a prophesy for Holloway.

“People don’t like to say that they believe in themselves and that they’re going to do good,” Holloway said. “Why not? It doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t want to squeak by, or get a win that everyone argues about. Forget that. I want the best Aldo we ever had to show up, and then I want to go out there and dominate him anywhere and everywhere.

“Some people say he’s the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all-time). OK, what I’m shooting for here is, if people are saying that, if they believe that, then what must I be if I dominate him? He is the G.O.A.T., and I respect that. But people’s time comes up sometimes, you know? He had his time, but that has run out. His time is running out and mine is starting. That’s what I want to do, I want to dominate. If the finish comes, great, but I want to be a force to reckon with and dominate these guys.”

He said now that he’s gotten some notoriety because of his UFC success, people accuse him of bragging or trash talking. He’s talked all along, he said, but few paid attention to him before.

Jose Aldo has only lost one of his last 20 fights. (Getty)
Jose Aldo has only lost one of his last 20 fights. (Getty)

The doubters were many – including, it turns out, his older brother, Sam.

Sam Holloway had just graduated college and returned home to have a talk with his brother, who in 2009 was days away from graduating from high school.

“I think it was two days before I walked and he said to me, ‘What are you planning? You gonna go to college?’ ” Holloway said. “I said, ‘Nope.’ He goes, ‘So you’re going to get a job?’ I said, ‘Nope, I’m going to be a UFC fighter,’ and he laughed. He said, ‘Man, you got to look for a job or get to college ASAP.’ ”

Max didn’t forget that conversation. In 2012, he indeed became a UFC fighter.

“He was the first guy I called,” Holloway said.

It was Jan. 4, 2012, and it turned out to be a monumental day for him.

“I called [Sam] and said, ‘You’re talking to a UFC fighter,’ and he laughed,” Holloway said. “I’ll never forget that day. It was the greatest day of my life. In the morning, I got my UFC contract. Later in the day, I got my son; he was born.”

After he told his brother, he hung up the phone, confident in the belief he’d proven another skeptic wrong.

He said one of his teachers, Mr. Gray, was one of the few who recognized his ability to be great.

“I was just this scrawny little kid with big ears, you know,” Holloway said. “I was the class clown. I liked to have fun and joke around. At that time, I was in the ninth grade, I was telling everyone I was going to be a baseball player. Mr. Gray was my ninth-grade math teacher, and he believed me. He would stay there, at recess and at lunch, and help me with my math, with my reading, whatever school work I had to do, so that when it was after school, I could focus on baseball.

“He saw the determination in me, so he wanted to help me with my school so that after school, I could go to baseball practice and devote myself and not having to worry about going home and have to do all this homework by myself.”

Eventually, he became a fighter, and the rest is history. But he was battling the naysayers even once he found his calling.

He’d take the toughest fights he could find, and wouldn’t consult his coaches until after the fight was made. When Holloway was 17, Aldo was the most dominant featherweight in the world, and Holloway ached to fight him.

“I wanted to fight him right then and there, believe me,” he said.

He didn’t get the chance then. But as a veteran of six-plus years in MMA and five-plus years in the UFC, the opportunity is there for him now. And he plans to take advantage.

“All those people who thought I was just talking, who didn’t believe me, they’ll see I was telling the truth,” Holloway said. “This is my destiny, and I knew it a long, long time ago. I’ve been saying it forever, but people didn’t start paying attention until just recently.”

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