Max Holloway
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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Benefits of a Slow Boil

“I’m probably not alone in saying that the UFC 212 main event between Jose Aldo and Max Holloway was incredible and horrible at the same time. The fight itself was incredible — there was a narrative arch to it and plenty of big-strike action, as well — but there is an unmistakable anxiety that comes with watching two great fighters go at it.

It’s impossible to remove myself emotionally from such fights. I also tend to think it’s boring to do so, since the real weight of watching sports is in the human connection that permeates the immediate entertainment. Regardless, this was a tough test, for both men in the Octagon and for me to watch.

I’m a teacher. Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorite students, but we do: Some kids are simply more enjoyable than others, in the same way that some coworkers have better personalities than others. It shouldn’t affect how students are treated or evaluated, but having classroom favorites is an unavoidable reality. The same logic applies to being a part of MMA media. Objectivity is important, especially when it comes to reporting and analysis, but when the fights are on, you’d have to be pretty cynical to not feel any sort of way about any of the action…”

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By In essay, Mixed Martial Arts

Something in the Water: The Past and Present of Hawaii’s Warrior Spirit

“It’s in the water. It’s in the Hawaiian water.” — former EliteXC champion K.J. Noons
A faint glow pulses in liquid darkness like the first heartbeat in a mother’s womb. Ever rising, it reveals itself to be lava leaking upwards from beneath the Earth’s crust. Its searing heat clashes with water cold enough to freeze if not for its salinity. Solid earth forms and pushes upward. Miles of black, cold ocean weigh on it heavily, but it continues to ascend until it pierces open air.

Solid land stretches out on top of the ocean surface. Powerful waves rear up and sculpt the shoreline. Distinct islands drift away from each other, netting floating debris and hosting seabirds for brief rests along their transcontinental flights. Seeds nestle into the nutrient-rich volcanic soil, sprouting into a diverse, pullulating oasis, more untouched and isolated than anywhere else on the planet. The islands settle into their edges and wait. Seafaring Polynesians arrive, pragmatic with details and romantic with ambition, brave brilliant and foolish enough to voyage into the distant horizon with little more than their knowledge of submarine rivers and extraterrestrial bodies. They bring more animals and plants with them, and a new set of life takes root. They are the first to cultivate civilization from the naked, Edenic land.

Communities across the islands grow into large, independent societies.They remain divided until European explorers drop anchor. Armed with superior technology, a renowned warrior and son of a nobleman conquers and unites the islands. The Kingdom of Hawaiʻi breathes its first breath. Waves of immigration from Europe and America crash ashore, bringing with them a new religion and way of life. The new residents start plantations, businesses that require labor, prompting more immigration from Japan, China and the Philippines.

The Kingdom thrives, so much so that a group of businessmen backed by the United States military lock Queen Liliuʻokalani in her palace and institute their own government. This government, absent any Hawaiians, opts to become a U.S. territory and eventually the 50th state of America. She is the last monarch of her country, unceremoniously under house arrest while her nation slips away into foreign hands.

From Hawaiʻi’s underwater inception to its birth as a modern metropolis, the pacific waters, like an amniotic ocean, carried with them the physical struggle for new life. As that life has been created and recreated over time, the confluence of opposites — darkness and light, hot and cold, ocean and land, native and foreigner, struggle and survival — has defined the Hawaiian identity. Hawaiʻi is and always has been a land of conflict…

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

A Fighter Forged from Conflict

“You’ve probably never been to Waianae, Hawaii. Though it is only 30 miles west of Waikiki, they are worlds apart. With a population of around 13,000, there are more tourists on the island on any given day than people who actually live in Waianae. A little more than 8,000 of its residents are of Native Hawaiian ancestry — which is not the same as simply being from Hawaii — making Waianae one of the most Hawaiian places on the island. The ethnic composition of the area is a small but important part of its reputation.

At the heart of the ahupuaʻa, or land division, since Waianae can hardly be called a city, is the high school. Waianae High School has held the dubious distinction of having the highest dropout rate in the state for over a decade. Around 30 percent of the students drop out, and nearly all of them are male; graduating classes are around 85 percent female. Of the students who stay enrolled, 70 percent of them qualify for free or reduced lunch assistance. Nearly 30 percent of the population lives under the poverty line, a reality exacerbated by rampant drug abuse, particularly crystal meth. Waianae is home to the oldest and largest encampments of homeless people in the state.

There are a lot of tough, rugged places in Hawaii, but none like Waianae. To represent the hot, dry side of Oahu is a well-understood shorthand in the islands for “don’t [expletive] with me.” To know Waianae is to understand newly crowned interim Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight titleholder Max Holloway…”

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Max Holloway: Hawaiian Kickboxer

“You can tell a lot about fighters by their walkout song. Especially in the Reebok era, where self-expression on fight night is pretty limited, the song that fighters choose to play on their way to the Octagon reveals much about who they are as both competitors and individuals.

This is particularly true for those who stick to one song for a prolonged stretch of fights. For someone like Ronda Rousey, who walks out to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” the song is an apt description of her public persona, whereas Robbie Lawler’s relentlessly entertaining energy in the cage is perfectly represented by Sam and Dave’s “Hold On (I’m Comin’).”

Max Holloway is among the few fighters who have found the single best song to represent who they are and how they fight. Moke Boy’s “Hawaiian Kickboxer” is Hawaiian country music, and Holloway’s hometown of Waianae, Oahu, is most definitely Hawaiian countryside. In fact, singer Moses Kamealoha III — Moke Boy himself — is from Waianae and wrote the song when he got kicked out of Waianae High School.

The humble simplicity of the song is fitting for Holloway, who remains grounded after achieving considerable success in a sport beloved by most people from Hawaii. While Holloway often draws comparisons to the state’s greatest MMA offspring in B.J. Penn, their choices in walkout music share the same Venn diagram that the fighters themselves do…”

 

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